Political psychology master's degree student expands research on dual citizens

Hannah Verrips is interested in the political behavior of Canadian and US Citizens

May 13, 2021

How do you effectively communicate important political and governmental messages across multiple nations, to diverse populations?

Hannah Verrips, a graduate student in Arizona State University's Master of Political Psychology program has firsthand experience with those challenges. Verrips, a dual national of the United States and Canada, spent time during her undergraduate studies as part of the Canadian legislature while at the University of Waterloo. This governmental experience was part of a work experience program at various ministries in the Ontario provincial government.  Hannah Verrips Hannah Verrips, a graduate student in the Master of Political Psychology program hopes to expand political research on dual citizens. Download Full Image

Verrips specialized in Canadian politics and was interested in the Master of Political Psychology program specifically to learn how to more effectively communicate and strategize messaging for citizens in the U.S. and in Canada. She currently works as a policy and programs assistant at the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services.

“I noticed that many of the people in government had trouble communicating political information to the electorate in an easily digestible way,” Verrips said. “Even when talking with friends and family about my role in politics, they would say they didn’t know what that means.”

One major challenge in effective communication for U.S. and Canadian citizens is that U.S. law doesn’t require citizens to relinquish their citizenship when applying for additional nationalities, and as a result, it is difficult to track how many dual citizens immigrate each year. It is currently estimated that approximately 10,000 dual citizens move across the U.S.-Canada border annually. 

“It is unclear how many dual nationals there are, which is interesting in itself, so a lot of my work will be studying how multiple nationalities impact political participation, behavior and understanding,” Verrips said. 

An important feature of the political psychology program is the mission to educate students using the most recent insights from evidence-based research in order to be prepared outside the classroom. Students can expect to use real-world situations and examples in order to better understand the strategy behind messaging and how to be more effective. 

“This program has been so transformational to my life and career — I’m part of the inaugural class and it has been an amazing way for me to intersect different disciplines. I’ve really been able to take away key aspects of political science and psychology to be even more effective in my career and in further research,” Verrips said.

Following graduation, Verrips is starting a PhD in political science this fall at the University of Western Ontario.

“I’m really interested in conducting research on the political behavior of dual or multinational citizens. I want to know how having more than one national identity impacts voting behavior and their communication about important issues,” Verrips said.

Verrips had an unexpected connection with her faculty as well. 

“The faculty was instrumental in mentoring me and helping with my application into my doctoral program,” Verrips said.

Verrips was also pleasantly surprised to hear that Steven Neuberg, who taught her "Prejudice and Stereotypes" course was a postdoctoral researcher at her alma mater early in his career.

“Hannah was an excellent student in my course, and it is no surprise that she is moving on to do great things in a doctoral program this fall,” said Neuberg, chair and Foundation Professor of psychology.  

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology


ASU undergraduates present research on depression, addiction, child psychopathology

Psychology students compete for most outstanding honors research thesis

May 13, 2021

Undergraduates in Arizona State University's Department of Psychology recently competed virtually for the title of most outstanding undergraduate research thesis. Finalists Amanda Acuna, Nicole Taylor and Mya Carrizosa presented research on major depression disorders, alcohol addiction in minority populations and on the genetic and environmental contributions to child psychopathology. 

The finalists presented and defended their theses to an audience of their peers, mentors, faculty and scholars from around the country. After the research presentations, a committee of ASU faculty members and outside scholars deliberated and selected a winner based on the quality of the research and presentation. Psychology Honors Thesis Finalists 2021psychology honors thesis finalists Nicole Taylor, Amanda Acuna and Mya Carrizosa. Download Full Image

Mya Carrizosa, finalist

Carrizosa, a senior in the Arizona Twin Project lab, conducted research on how parental and environmental factors can impact child behavioral dysfunction or psychopathology. Her honors thesis, “Genetic and environmental contributions to the relation between parenting and child psychopathology,” analyzed how certain traits may evoke different parenting responses, and their relation to long-term psychopathology. Her project analyzed positive and negative parenting behaviors among internal, external and ADHD traits in twins.

This research is based on the evocative gene environment theory or how an individual's environment is influenced by their genetic predispositions.

“Certain traits may evoke different parenting responses, which might be very heritable traits like ADHD, and those traits may in fact alter the parental response,” Carrizosa said. “The amazing thing with doing twin research is we can actually see how environmental contributions come into play with identical genetics."

This experience, while difficult, was one of the most rewarding experiences in her college career, she said.

“It was so validating to see that the effort that I put into this project was recognized at the end,” said Carrizosa, adding that “the satisfaction that comes from persevering through a difficult project like this made it all worth it.”

Next fall, Carrizosa will be heading to start a master’s degree in counseling at the University of Colorado, Boulder. 

Nicole Taylor, finalist

Nicole Taylor, a winter graduate from the ASU Department of Psychology, finished up her academic career as another honors thesis finalist for her work in the Gene, Environment, and Youth Development lab with Assistant Professor Jinni Su. She also contributed to research in the Las Madres Nuevas Parent-Child Lab. 

Taylor’s honors thesis focused on “Depressive symptoms and drinking to cope in relation to alcohol use outcomes among European American and African American college students.”

“There is a lot of research showing that racial and ethnic minorities have more negative alcohol outcomes long-term in spite of reporting lower alcohol use, and there isn’t much research that shows why,” Taylor said.

Taylor was interested in seeing how depressive symptoms and drinking to cope may account for racial or ethnic differences in alcohol use behaviors. Her thesis found that depressive symptoms were associated with negative alcohol outcomes via drinking to cope, and these pathways of risk did not vary between white and Black/African American college students.

“I underestimated how much work goes into running these analyses, but working with Dr. (Jinni) Su who has so much experience with data made the process much easier and I couldn’t be more grateful for her mentorship,” Taylor said. 

Taylor will be starting a marriage and family therapist master's degree program at the Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, this fall. 

Amanda Acuna, winner

Amanda Acuna was named the 2021 Best Psychology Honors Thesis for her research in the Behavioral Neuroscience Research in Stress Lab with Professor Cheryl Conrad.

Her thesis, “Unpredictable, intermittent, chronic stress may increase dendritic complexity of short shaft hippocampal neurons,” examined the idea of hippocampal volume and its connection to chronic stress and depression. 

The hippocampus is smaller in people among those with major depressive disorder than in those without, and that can be important because of its role in learning and in the stress response. 

“My project aimed to modify a preclinical rodent model of major depressive disorder that has produced effects in males but not females," Acuna said. "The hope is that by producing effects in both sexes, we can better model the human disorder.”

Acuna was accepted to the behavioral neuroscience PhD program for fall 2021 in the Addiction Neuroscience Laboratory with Foster Olive, a professor and area head of the behavioral neuroscience program at ASU.

“Not only is she an outstanding and dedicated student, but she is also a fantastic artist which will undoubtedly come in handy when she creates neuroscience illustrations and figures for her research articles,” said Olive, Acuna’s future graduate mentor.

Acuna is not your traditional student however, coming back to school after already receiving a degree in art, raising a family and running a successful swim instruction school for over a decade. 

While she had success, she had more personal aspirations in mind, deciding to come back to school to pursue special education. It was in this pursuit that she discovered her love and passion for neuroscience and conducting research. After being admitted to the psychology department, she scanned the research lab listings and contacted Conrad to ask about conducting research in her lab. 

“I wanted to explore all of the options that ASU had, and I was so lucky to be brought into Dr. Conrad’s lab,” Acuna said. “I am just interested in the implications of environment and experience on the brain and how that alters behaviors like addiction.”

Acuna hopes to understand the neural mechanisms around addiction and how research can better inform future therapeutics and long term solutions. 

“Amanda is one of those 'once-in-a-decade' students that professors dream about. Amanda tackles any project with her full determination and commitment, making it seem like she is completely focused on that one task, yet performing outstanding on multiple projects simultaneously,” Conrad said. “She is intelligent, responsible, insightful, creative and a team player!”

When Acuna isn’t conducting extensive research in the lab, she also mentors other students as a student success coach in the department’s Student Success Center. 

“She’s an outstanding role model who truly loves to learn and is a great supporter of her fellow students,” said Will Corbin, professor and director of the clinical psychology PhD program. 

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology