Being study subjects pays off, UT students say

Grace Dickens

Participating as a study subject in a research opportunity doesn’t always mean you’re a lab rat. In fact, it can make your wallet fat. Many students across campus agree that volunteering as paid study participants, and even unpaid practitioners has its benefits.

Biology sophomore Jacey Pridgen signed up for a study for the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Lab last fall, where she earned $10 an hour for every in-person visit to the lab and an additional $100 for completing the study. The study required her to wear an ActiGraph, a motion-detecting wristband that tracks sleep and physical activity, for one week.

“It was kind of a hassle to walk around with the watch on all week, but with how much I was getting paid, I couldn’t really argue,” Pridgen said. “It just gave me some extra cash for going out on the town or hanging out with friends. I’d definitely do it again.”

Studies can last more than one week. Nutrition junior Alisha Paz has been involved in a research study called Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments since her freshman year. She gets sent a $25 gift card after completing a midsemester survey that lasts about 45 minutes.

“It’s not really a commitment, I usually use it as a study break,” Paz said. “It asks about how safe we perceive the campus to be, if we have ever been a victim of assault and our general knowledge of the student aid provided by the University.”

Research studies are a great way to get their volunteer hours, Paz added. Paz has been a volunteer for TX Sprouts since last year. TX Sprouts is a hands-on research study funded by the National Institutes of Health to teach elementary aged children and their parents in Austin about nutrition, gardening and cooking. Paz assists with classes, maintains gardens and collects data on the students.

“Being in the gardens and with the kids gives me a nice mental break from everything happening in the rest of my life,” Paz said. “It’s made me more aware of resources for students who have experienced abusive relationships or are experiencing mental health issues. Most of my friends seem to think it’s worth it, but I can’t speak for the general population.”

Biology sophomore Jaime Luong volunteers seven hours a week in a department of psychology lab this semester.

“Because I’m interested in graduate school, I figured this would be good experience to put on my resume,” Luong said. “I’ve learned more about the process of conducting research. I also think it’s worth it because the graduate students in control of the lab are going to help us with recommendation letters in the future.”

Whether they’re wearing wristbands for the week or working in the garden, these students say their research experiences at UT have been worthwhile, and there are more popping up every day.

Research opportunities are posted on the UT Events and Announcements Calendar, as well on boards around campus.