portrait of ASU developmental psychology graduate student Jeri Sasser

ASU graduate student named to American Psychological Association Science Student Council

By

Robert Ewing

Jeri Sasser, a developmental psychology graduate student in Arizona State University's Department of Psychology, was selected as the American Psychological Association's (APA) Science Student Council developmental representative until 2023.

Sasser’s research interests focus on critical periods of transition, such as the transition from adolescence to emerging adulthood. She also conducts research on sleep and its relation to stress and well-being. Additionally, she was awarded an honorable mention by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program for her research on the developmental changes in sleep across the transition to college and its impact on educational attainment and achievement in Latino college students.

“I'm also really interested in the role that sleep plays during these transitions, as well as how sleep underlies stress and psychopathology,” Sasser said.

Sasser is mentored by Leah Doane, an expert on adolescent development and stress, principal researcher of the Adolescent Stress and Emotion Lab and a contributing principal investigator on the Arizona Twin Project. Sasser primarily conducts research with Doane as part of the Transiciones project.

The Transiciones project is a longitudinal research study funded by the William T. Grant Foundation that follows ASU Latino students and how they adjust in the transition to college. The study conducts research on the daily stress experiences and health behaviors of Latino students and how they contribute to academic achievement and integration in college.

Doane is a recent winner of the outstanding doctoral mentor award from the ASU Graduate College, and she stresses the importance of mentoring students and helping them find their own voice and research goals.

“Jeri’s excellence in research and commitment to the dissemination of developmental science made her a great candidate for this award. Importantly, she is also a team player, so we know that she will work with the other student council members to advocate for the well-being of graduate students and their research as well as ensure that psychology plays a prominent role in our national scientific agenda,” Doane said.

As part of the APA Science Student Council, Sasser will help with APA Convention programming, write newsletter articles (for APA’s Psychological Science Agenda e-newsletter), review applications for the APA “Early Graduate Student Research Award,” attend governance meetings and travel to Washington, D.C., to advocate issues related to the funding and promotion of psychology.

“The main aim of the APA Science Student Council is to really just promote the voice of graduate student researchers,” Sasser said. “We serve as an advisory group to the APA Science Directorate and APA Board of Scientific Affairs to help make sure that our voices are heard as part of APA governance.”

Sasser also is the graduate student representative for the ENERGIZE Research Initiative in the ASU Department of Psychology, which aims to connect underrepresented students with research labs in psychology. Sasser helped launch the ENERGIZE Mentorship Initiative, which offers undergraduate students one-on-one mentorship from graduate students in psychology, with the primary aim of promoting students’ engagement, competence and confidence in a research setting.

When students apply to the ENERGIZE program, Sasser helps to “match” them with a graduate student mentor. Since the launch of the mentorship sub-initiative in September 2020, the ENERGIZE initiative has matched over 70 students with mentors. For her work in launching the program, Sasser won the 2021 Samuel Leifheit Memorial Citizenship Award for going above and beyond in the service of others.

A piece of advice

“One piece of advice for an undergraduate interested in psychology is to get involved in research as early as you can and to ask as many questions as you can of both professors and different graduate students,” Sasser said.

Following the completion of graduate school, Sasser aims to become a postdoctoral researcher and hopes to eventually serve as a professor at a research university. 

Video of Jeri Sasser named to American Psychological Association Science Student Council