Mara Richman ’14: Have Research, Will Travel

Senior psychology major Mara Richman in front of a projection screen

Mara Richman ’14 presenting her research in Rome

Mara Richman ’14 recently cut classes for an entire week. But the senior psychology major wasn’t goofing off. Rather, she attended the International Borderline Personality and Allied Disorders annual conference in Rome—at their invitation—to deliver her research paper “Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test in Major Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder: A Meta-Analysis”

She was the conference’s youngest oral presenter.

“There were researchers from all over the world on this topic and I presented before a huge audience,” said Mara.

“I have a passion for meta-analysis and this is one of several that I have done on my own. This one looked at differences in mental state decoding between borderline personality disorder and major depressed patients.”

The National Institute of Mental Health defines borderline personality disorder (BPD) as a serious mental illness marked by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships. Most people with BPD suffer from problems with regulating emotions and thoughts, impulsive and reckless behavior, and unstable relationships with other people.

Mara’s paper was based on independent research she conducted while on study abroad at Kalamazoo College’s Budapest Semester in Cognitive Science, under the mentorship of Zsolt Unoka, M.D., Ph.D. She visited with Dr. Unoka during the Rome conference.

One of her K professors, Luce Professor of Complex Systems Studies Peter Erdi, Ph.D., helped her arrange the research project. Help with funding for her Rome trip came from K’s Office of the Provost, Department of Psychology, and Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership.

“The conference truly shaped me and it was great to network with people in the field to learn more about the BPD,” said Mara.

Mara completed her SIP this past summer at Harvard University where she moved forward her BPD research by studying identity disturbance. She currently has 12 peer-reviewed journal articles in review or awaiting publication. Previously, she received an award from the American Psychological Association for outstanding research.

“My K advisor, Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology Jennifer Perry, Ph.D., has been a huge help in guiding me and helping me make these decisions.”

Mara, who came to K from Tampa, Fla., completed all of her graduation requirements early and will leave campus at the end of this fall quarter. She hopes to land fulltime work in a clinical facility in order to gain more clinical experience before pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology with a focus on BPD.

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