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Student Spotlight: Meghan Castagno

Student Spotlight

Some people stop at the first sign of adversity. For Meghan Castagno, it's the next opportunity to grow and develop as a student and professional.

When Castagno, a psychology major, ran into repeated roadblocks during her final research assignment, she took advantage of the time to broaden her knowledge.

"I kept getting cut off at the point where I couldn't run the project," said Castagno. "It's given me time to really refine and get to know the material which has helped me figure out what I want to do for grad school."

Castagno had spent her time at RIT working towards a degree focused on evolutionary psychology but stepped outside of her comfort zone in her last research assignment. Under the direction of Professor Andrew Herbert, the head of the psychology department and Ralph Bean, from the FOSS Box in the Center for Student Innovation, Castagno has been working towards developing an experiment related to novel stimuli, sound and ADHD.

"Are you able to inhibit your eye movements from looking at novel stimuli?" asked Castagno."I want to see if sound helps [inhibit eye movement] because of the optical stimulation theory of ADHD."

As people with ADHD have higher thresholds for stimulation, Castagno anticipates that the presence of music will reduce novelty seeking.

"I'm using eye tracking because it's a good way of looking at ocular inhibition," said Castagno. "If you focus on something, that's what you're looking at. I want to see how often they look at novel stimuli while music is played."

Another interesting aspect of Castagno's proposal is her pool of human subjects.

"Most eye tracking studies for ADHD are with children or adolescents," said Castagno. "Most students of my age that have ADHD were diagnosed as children, so they're not adult diagnosed."

The difference in population is expected to contribute unique results for Castagno's study, which is slated for completion at the end of September.

Another key aspect of Castagno's project that was borne from delayed approval on her research proposal was an interest in open sourcing. Her mentor Ralph Bean is connected with the free and open source software movement that Castagno believes could have big benefits for researchers.

"I made a poster presentation on all the work I had done with special emphasis on open sourcing of experimental psychology," said Castagno. "I feel it will lead to greater innovation and critical thinking."

Castagno presented her poster at the Undergraduate Research Symposium on August 10 and said that the open sourcing aspect of the presentation attracted as much attention as her research model.

Due to limitations on word count in journals and other forums for sharing research, Castagno says that recreating the methods and materials from previous research can be difficult. Open sourcing can solve many of these problems by making research free and easily accessible.

While this project hasn't been perfectly smooth sailing for her, Castagno is glad that she's had the opportunity. She transferred to RIT from UC Davis and immediately noticed advantages to the change of scenery.

"Everything about going to a liberal arts college at an institute of technology is phenomenal," said Castagno. "It was really nice to work in such a multidisciplinary environment."

More intimate class sizes and the chance for undergraduate research were benefits that Castagno highlighted as crucial to her development. She was also able to take a number of advanced classes in mathematics and programming.

"Going to RIT as a liberal arts major I have a technical concentration, everything that's required for a bachelor of science," said Castagno. "On top of that I'm exposed to, and can take classes in, things that RIT specializes in."

Castagno will complete her degree at the end of September in conjunction with the conclusion of her research. She plans to attend graduate school at the beginning of the next school year.

Castagno served on the College of Liberal Arts Student Advisory Board, as president and founder of the Psychology Student Society and the Center for Women and Gender Student Advisory Board during her time at RIT.