'The place to be': Literature grad grateful for opportunities off the page

April 22, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Thomas Bate is a deep thinker. The Scottsdale, Arizona, resident is graduating from Arizona State University in Barrett, The Honors College this spring with a Bachelor of Arts in English (literature) and a handful of accolades for his intellectual gifts. Courtesy image of ASU grad Thomas Bate Graduating English major Thomas Bate said the academic environment at ASU "encourages risk-taking, big ideas, and freethinking." He is grateful for all the support he has received while a student here. "Frankly, this just feels like the place to be!" Download Full Image

The English degree is a natural fit for Bate, an immigrant from the U.K. who hails from a literary family. In fact, Bate’s writing is so good that it has garnered him several scholarships and awards from the Department of English, including the Homecoming Writing Contest (in 2019 and 2021 both) as well as the Nick Ivins Memorial Literature Scholarship (2021).

While seeming the prototypical young literature scholar, Bate’s planned career trajectory does not settle him in an armchair wearing a tweed smoking jacket.

On the contrary, Bate’s goals are to serve others. He plans to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology and become a practicing psychotherapist.

With this aim in mind, Bate recently relocated to California for an internship — “which was a bit mad, since it was unpaid,” he admitted – at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology.

His work there under psychologist Dr. Robert Epstein won him the Department of English’s High Impact Internship Award for 2022, a recognition given to students who take on internship work toward “the greater social good.”

Bate’s internship was intensive: “As a research intern,” he said in his application, “I have edited corrected proofs with ‘Dr. E,’ written fourteen IRBs (required documentation to ensure the ethical practice of experiments) and I am currently co-authoring a paper with Dr. E that will propose a questionnaire for determining the severity of ‘behavioral addictions’ in comparison to ‘substance abuse disorders’ — a key distinction yet to be made in the world of psychology.”

Bate said he’s an admirer of how the university combines academics with community embeddedness, calling the result a “brilliantly holistic educational experience.”

He also points to another of his best ASU experiences: an internship with the Pen Project Internship, where he edited and reviewed writings by prisoners at a New Mexico state penitentiary.

As his honors thesis, for which he received funding from Barrett, The Honors College, he wrote a novel under the supervision of fiction writer and ASU Professor of English T.M. McNally, an experience Bate said was “thrilling.”

Bate is grateful for the support he has received at ASU, both from the institution itself and from individual faculty and staff members.

We caught up with him (he was wearing a jacket, though it wasn’t tweed) to ask a few more questions about his ASU experience and his future plans.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field?

Answer: I have always been fascinated with the human experience — those questions around who we are and why we do the things we do. English literature has always seemed to me the most accessible portal into this abstract world. As such, my “aha” moment has been continuous, as it is an exclamation made afresh with every book I read.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: Something that I learned at ASU is that it is imperative to find, and then become, yourself. Often, people my age feel pressure to conform, but I have never felt that at ASU, despite its great size. Everywhere I look, I find people growing into the versions of themselves that they will one day become, living authentically and unapologetically, and I think it’s great.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because it is a dynamic and exciting university compared to many of the more antiquated and ossified alternatives. Coming to America as an immigrant from the United Kingdom, I have been fully introduced to the American “can-do” attitude that ASU takes so seriously. Consequently, this academic environment encourages risk-taking, big ideas and freethinking. This has enriched my studies. I have had support from ASU — both academic and financial — that I know I wouldn’t have received elsewhere, for which I am enormously grateful. Frankly, this just feels like the place to be!

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Professor T.M. McNally in the creative writing (program) has taught me the most. I will not forget the things I’ve learned from him. His best advice was never to write anything in order to be published: write because you want to write. I must also give a mention to my literature professor (Principal Lecturer) Steve Farmer, who told me early on to “stay away from Arthur Schopenhauer!” in my essays, for his outlook tends to bleakly taint one’s thoughts forever.

Alas, for me, it was too late ...

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: While I think it is paramount for people to work to the best of their abilities so as to live up to their full potential, I think it is also important not to lose sight of the wood for the trees. What I mean by that is, if in the course of your education you sacrifice elements of your mental health, sense of self-worth, social life and general personal development, in order to pursue the best possible life for yourself, you may find that you’ve actually made it harder to attain by doing so. You should prioritize self-care above all else while at school — and the funny thing is that if you do this, good grades will almost always follow as a result anyway.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: I always loved the Secret Garden, located very close to my dormitory in my first year.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I am going to apply to graduate schools in order to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. My plan is to become a psychologist, therapist and writer.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: One social problem that can certainly be solved with money is that of mental health. There is a real crisis of mental health at the moment — especially among my generation — which is causing great suffering both on the individual and societal level. I would allocate $40 million towards providing mental health care resources to underserved communities, who often need it most, in the form of therapeutic practices, health clinics and the distribution of helpful literature.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Manager, marketing + communications, Department of English


Undergraduate psychology researcher hopes to uncover solutions to depression in military populations

Award-winning undergraduate works in 4 research labs, hopes to pursue PhD

April 22, 2022

Rishika Shah, an undergraduate researcher in four labs in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University, hopes to understand the underlying mechanisms behind behavior and attention.

Shah was announced as the recipient of the Dariel Truter Overby Memorial Scholarship, which is given annually to psychology students who aim to help people and pursue a graduate degree.  Rishika Shah, an undergraduate researcher in four labs in the Department of Psychology Rishika Shah, an undergraduate researcher in four labs in the Department of Psychology, hopes to understand the underlying mechanisms behind behavior and attention. Photo by Robert Ewing/ASU Download Full Image

Shah currently conducts research with the Military Social Science Laboratory (MiSSile) and Associate Professor Rebecca Blais; in the Behavioral Alcohol Research for Clinical Advancement (BARCA) lab with Professor William Corbin; in the ADAPT project with Professor Abigail Gewirtz; and in the Memory and Control Lab with Associate Professor Gene Brewer.

Shah is also the president of the Psychology Engagement Team and the secretary of the Psych for All committee, a DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging) initiative within the department.

Shah recently presented her honors thesis poster at the AZPURCAZPURC stands for Arizona Psychology Undergraduate Research conference. student research conference and has been working with the MiSSile Lab to better understand depression and social support in military populations. 

The MiSSile Lab conducts research on individual and interpersonal outcomes associated with military-related traumas, including combat and sexual assault/harassment, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Military populations endure intense stress that is unfamiliar to the regular population. As a result, many military families deal with reintegration issues and long-term depression. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illnessnearly one in four active military service personnel have experienced some form of mental health condition. Additionally, a 2014 study by JAMA Psychiatry found that veterans deal with PTSD at 15 times the rate of civilians. 

“I'm doing my thesis on depression and social support in military populations,” Shah said. “We found a gap in literature where the association of negative social interactions with depression has not been studied in military populations. Negative social support is essentially critical remarks, promising help but not engaging in helpful behaviors and other forms of insensitive behaviors. Since social support has always been thought of as a protective factor to reduce depressive symptoms, it is important that we study both its positive and negative facets of it to better inform clinical interventions to treat depression. We hypothesize that negative social interactions affect depression more than positive social support.”

Shah transferred from a university in Mumbai in the late portion of 2021 and immediately went to work ingraining herself in the research culture of the Department of Psychology. 

“Rishika is an intrepid scholar, who has sought and taken all opportunities she can. She is quick on her feet and thorough,” Blais said. “Her future is bright — I am honored to be part of her academic journey.”

In India, Shah was the editor of St. Xavier’s College’s psychology magazine and helped to organize literary and cultural festivals there. Additionally, she was the chairperson of the Indian Delegation at the Harvard College in Asia Program. Shah also helped to tutor elementary students in English with the Udisha Project. 

Shah recognized that the theoretical approach to research in Mumbai limited her hands-on opportunities to conduct research, and she made the difficult decision to transfer to ASU. She was motivated by the idea of finding her own research niche and building a wealth of knowledge prior to applying for graduate programs. 

“I first started with Dr. Blais at the MiSSile Lab, which is a military psychology lab where I am doing my honors thesis on depression and social support in military populations. And after that, I started working with Dr. Corbin at the BARCA Lab, which is a substance use lab, where I'm working on a cannabis research project,” Shah said. 

Her positive experiences in the MiSSile and BARCA labs encouraged her to continue adding research roles and to continue her growth as a psychology researcher. Each lab conducts research in slightly different ways and from different perspectives, and combining them allows Shah to further refine what niche she intends on researching long-term. 

“Additionally, I get to work as an undergraduate research coder in the ADAPT lab at the REACH Institute here at ASU and also in Dr. Brewer’s lab, where I run experiments by administering current stimulation through electrodes and assisting in other ways,” Shah said. “The common ground in all of these labs and in the department is how supportive the climate is everywhere. The graduate students, my professors and even my fellow research assistants all want to set you up for success.”

Shah hopes to join a clinical psychology doctoral program and is interested in conducting research on substance use in vulnerable populations such as military service members, veterans and other cognitive impairments from traumatic brain injury, PTSD and depression.  

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology