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Anika Lindley

Major: Psychology

Mentor: Dr. Sara Webb, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences


Current research project: Aggression and Social Deficits Among Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Anika is a senior at UW studying psychology and statistics. She is interested in behavioral psychology, but has not decided whether she would like to pursue a research career or a career in industrial psychology and consumer analysts. To explore her research interests, Anika joined the Psychology Honors Program and has been working in labs studying Autism, first at the University of Washington, and now at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. She hopes to understand influences and outcomes of certain behaviors exhibited by individuals with autism. In her free time, Anika enjoys running, cooking, and traveling.

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an early onset neurodevelopmental disorder that affects an estimated one in 59 children. ASD is highly heterogeneous, resulting in a range of socialization and communication impairments, restricted and repetitive behaviors, sensory deficits, and can be associated with intellectual disability. While aggression is not considered a defining feature of ASD, it is observed at elevated levels and is a clinically significant problem for many individuals with ASD. Challenges associated with aggression include increased risk of harm to self and others and reduced opportunities for social relationships and learning. Specifically, several studies have identified an association between aggression and impairments in communication and social skills among individuals with ASD, though research on the associations with aggression is limited. A link between aggression and impairments in social functioning warrants further research as the results may provide helpful insight towards optimizing treatment for individuals with ASD.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I became involved in research my sophomore year. I knew I wanted to experience research in a lab to understand whether that was something I wanted to pursue as a career once I graduate, and I was open to studying a range of topics. I ended up in a lab studying autism because it was under the general realm of behavioral psychology and the lab members were very welcoming and excited to help me learn.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
My advice to a student hoping to become involved in undergraduate research is to be open to range of topics that you may do your research on. Not only will it allow you to have an easier time finding a lab, but it might also give you the opportunity to find a topic you become very fascinated despite not really having considered before. For me, autism was not something I set out to research, but I have learned a tremendous amount from my research experience and am excited to continue to learn everything I can about autism and autism research. I also think that a good mentor can make or break a research experience more than the topic itself. I have been grateful enough to find an excellent mentor which has allowed me to learn more in the lab than I would have though possible.