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Penn Lab (schizophrenia and social cognition) undergraduate research assistantships

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The Penn Lab is hiring undergraduate research assistants to begin in Summer 2023, with opportunities to continue on in the academic year. The Penn Lab primarily works with individuals who have experienced their first episode of psychosis (FEP) or who have a schizophrenia spectrum disorder (schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or schizophreniform). Dr. David Penn’s research typically focuses within two areas: social cognition and psychosocial treatment for schizophrenia.

Some current studies include:
The Horyzons Project: Horyzons is a moderated online social therapeutic (MOST) platform adapted for Americans with schizophrenia spectrum disorders and first episode psychosis (FEP). This platform was built much like a social media platform, but has additional features central to mental health and recovery (such as access to online therapists, peer support specialists, and wellness activities based in psychoeducation and cognitive behavioral therapy). Previous Horyzons implementation within clinical services assessed the effectiveness of the platform in the recovery of individuals experiencing FEP. The upcoming Horyzons project will assess the implementation and integration of the digital intervention within specialized FEP standard care.

The Altitudes Project: Altitudes is a digital platform for families with loved ones experiencing schizophrenia spectrum disorders and FEP. The platform, originally developed for Australian families, is being adapted for American families and contexts. The platform will provide psychoeducation, skills, online therapists, and family peer specialists to support themselves and their loved one in the journey to recovery. Upon adaptation and beta testing of the platform, Altitudes will be piloted with family members who will engage with the platform and content. The project will assess the effectiveness of the platform in improving and supporting mental health and social facets.

Race and Psychosis Intervention Development (RAPID): This project aims to develop a culturally tailored treatment for Black Americans with first-episode psychosis (FEP). This project will be completed in two phases. The first phase involves qualitative interviewing of clients, family members, clinicians, and PS/S and SE/E specialists with experiences in dealing with FEP. These interviews will inform the development of a culturally tailored treatment manual. The second phase of this project will involve an open pilot trial implementing the interventions outlined in the manual developed in phase one.

Previous studies still in data analysis include:
PACE-Life: Physical Activity Can Enhance Life. This study is currently in the randomized control trial phase and data collection has now been completed. Participants with schizophrenia spectrum disorders or unspecified psychosis were randomly assigned to either Fitbit only or Fitbit + the PACE-Life exercise intervention. During the pandemic, this intervention involved virtual exercise groups held for participants twice a week. (Some data from the PACE-Life study may be available to a student for a senior thesis or other student project)

Targeting Stress Reactivity in Schizophrenia: Integrating Coping Awareness Therapy (I-CAT): The purpose of this study was to develop and then subsequently evaluate a mindfulness and positive therapy intervention for individuals with first episode psychosis. Following a manual development period, an open trial of six clients was conducted, which led to a small-scale RCT (n=40). The study was completed in January 2020, and we are currently in the data analysis phase of this trial.

Responsibilities in this position may include:
● Querying and organization of data about participant engagement with a digital intervention for first episode psychosis;
● Transcription of audio/video files from qualitative interview recordings;
● Qualitative analysis of transcriptions, including possible codebook creation or other reporting;
● Administering questionnaires to participants

Please submit your application to the Penn Lab here (please do not submit through Office of Undergraduate Research):

Faculty Advisor
David Penn, PhD
Research Supervisor
Elizabeth Fraser, MS
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