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Nothing can stop Matt Kelley’s ‘K-Lab Quintet’

five students in front of their country's flag and professor Image by Sara Martinez ’23
December 18, 2020
Katy Knuckles ’21

They’ve never met in person, yet five sophomores who started working as Richter Scholars in Professor Matt Kelley’s psychology lab in May 2020 have already logged an incredible run.

The “K-Lab Quintet” has designed and conducted five psychology experiments and presented those findings at an international conference—all while working remotely from five different countries. 

The student research team includes Deniz Akpinar ’23 from Turkey, Vaughan Bamford ’23 from Canada, Sara Martinez ’23 from Costa Rica, Tracey Nassuna ’23 from Uganda, and Madison Stevens ’23 from Indiana.

The quintet conducted cognitive research on human memory, where they focused on the effectiveness of cues or hints. “Traditionally, we think of hints as being helpful tools to remember things,” Martinez said. “But we are exploring this counter-intuitive idea that hints or cues can actually hurt your memory.” 

The students developed their research questions and designed the experiments via Zoom meetings.

“We started by reading articles on earlier memory research,” Nassuna said. “We then identified a gap in knowledge on boundary conditions of part-set cueing. That became our first research question. Our second question was how part-set cueing could be applied to real-life situations, such as school or college.”

Using a program called Qualtrics to administer their experiment, the team collected online data over several months. Most impressively, “we were able to gather all of our data in a remote environment,” Bamford said.

The team ran three different experiments over the summer. In the fall, they worked on “a continuation of a pilot that we started in early August” with the hope of gathering “substantial data,” Stevens said.

To prepare for the 61st Annual Psychonomics Society meeting in November—a renowned international psychology conference, the team “spliced audio from each lab member to create a cohesive presentation for one of the top conferences in the world,” Akpinar said.

“I’ve been so impressed by The Quintet, both in terms of their work and in how well they’ve bonded as a team, even in spite of our remoteness. I can’t wait to have us all back on campus for a proper in-person lab meeting,” Kelley said. 

To view a video on Kelley’s K-Lab students, click here