Rachel Thibodeau is a 4th year graduate student in the Department of Psychology working under the mentorship of Dr. Ansley Gilpin. She completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX, and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Developmental Science and Cognitive Psychology with a minor in statistics at The University of Alabama (UA). Motivated by recent declines in academic performance, Rachel’s research interests focus on discovering mechanisms to facilitate emerging cognitive, emotional, and social skills in typically developing and at-risk children. Her Master’s thesis, featured in UA’s Three-Minute Thesis competition, tested the effects of a novel pretend-play intervention on children’s cognitive development. Rachel received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program Honorable Mention for her Master’s thesis project. From this work, Rachel developed her dissertation research exploring how pretend-play can serve as a protective factor to minimize deficits in school readiness in an at-risk Head Start population. Rachel was recently awarded a competitive 2-year dissertation grant from the Administration for Children and Families to fund this research. Outside of her own research, Rachel has served as a graduate student research assistant on two externally funded studies where she has mentored over 150 undergraduate research assistants as they collected data from children and families throughout the community. Rachel has also recently established a Living Laboratory partnership with the McWane Science Center in Birmingham in order to further engage the community in her research. Through this partnership, Rachel has developed a new service learning psychology course for undergraduate students to learn about topics in child development through hands-on activities with children and parents at McWane. During her time at UA, Rachel has been the recipient of a Graduate Council Fellowship, Dean’s Merit Award, Graduate Council Research Fellowship, and an Outstanding Research by a Mater’s Student (Department of Psychology) award. She has 3 peer-reviewed publications and 14 presentations. Rachel has taught 3 courses at UA and currently serves as a representative for the Psychology Graduate Student Association. She is very grateful for the mentorship and guidance from the faculty in the Department of Psychology and for all the opportunities she has been given as a graduate student at The University of Alabama.
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