The Educational Neuroscience Laboratory at American University in Washington DC, directed by Dr. Emily Grossnickle Peterson (, is currently accepting applications for a full-time, benefits-eligible Research Assistant position, to assist on the first 3 years of a 5-year NSF-funded project investigating the role of curiosity in visual processing (NSF award # 2239591). The position is ideal for an individual seeking to deepen their research experience in preparation for graduate study.

Applicants should apply electronically at (position # 18996) and submit a CV and cover letter. Review of applications will begin June 20, 2023 and continue until the position is filled. Prospective applicants may email Dr. Peterson ( with any questions.

About the Research

Curiosity is a hallmark of scientific discovery and can propel students to ask questions, explore scientific ideas, enhance memory, and boost persistence during learning. Yet, studies of curiosity have mostly focused on whether curiosity increases learning rather than how curiosity increases learning. Therefore, to understand how curiosity impacts learning about scientific phenomena, this project will conduct a set of three studies with high school and undergraduate students to test whether sparking curiosity about scientific phenomena changes students’ visual processing. These experiments will test whether feeling curious changes visual processing in ways that support student learning about science. This project will also develop citizen science projects to engage K-12 students in cognitive science research about curiosity and visual processing. Results from this project will contribute to understandings of curiosity and visual processing, provide recommendations for future interventions to increase the positive impact of curiosity, and will be the first to examine relations between curiosity and visual processing during science learning. The project is supported by a CAREER award to American University by the EHR Core Research (ECR) program, which supports work that advances the fundamental research literature on STEM learning.

Summary/Objectives for the Research Assistant

The Research Assistant will be responsible for research and administrative aspects of a grant-funded research project examining adolescent curiosity and visual processing.

Responsibilities will include:

  • supporting the development of protocols and data collection using methods including eye-tracking, surveys, online studies, and citizen science approaches in collaboration with the Principal Investigator and other study personnel
  • coordinating and monitoring study recruitment with participating students, families, and schools.
  • maintaining the study database, including organization and documentation of files
  • data analysis and dissemination of results through publications and presentations

Required Education and Experience

  • Bachelor’s degree in psychology, neuroscience, education, or related field.
  • 1-3 years of relevant experience (may have taken place during undergraduate)
  • Prior experience with human subjects research related to at least one of the following: data collection, study recruitment, programming/coding of experimental stimuli presentation, or data management/data analysis.

Preferred Education and Experience

  • Relevant experience with neuroscience/psychology research tools (e.g., eye-tracking, Qualtrics, E-prime, Psychtoolbox, Excel), data analysis, data processing, manuscript preparation, and/or social media/website development is preferred.
  • Experience with eye-tracking data collection or analysis is strongly preferred.
  • Computational skills and programming experience in R, and/or Stata strongly preferred, but not strictly required.
  • Experience working with adolescents/children or working in a school setting is preferred.
  • Valid Driver’s License is preferred but not required.
  • The intention to make a 2-to-3-year commitment is preferred.