Thursday, July 22, 2010

Alumna continues education as a research assistant in sleep studies

Psychology alumna Tori Crain, '09, has transferred her passion for psychology from the classroom to the WSU Sleep and Performance Research Center, where she currently researches the fatigue and performance of the pilots of a major airline.

Crain, a Spokane native, traveled to the airline's headquarters to present preliminary results to company and union representatives. Once complete, the study's results will advise the Federal Aviation Administration as it mandates new hours-of-duty regulations for commercial pilots.

"We've received such positive feedback from the industry," says Crain. "It's very rewarding to hear that our study is helping to improve pilot health and well-being."

Crain first heard about her current job from Associate Professor of Psychology Noel Wescombe, who, she says, is profoundly dedicated to ensuring that his students will grow during their time at Whitworth and find success after leaving.

"I came away from Dr. Wescombe's classes having so many interests that I couldn't choose just one area of research to study or one career to pursue," she says. "He volunteers countless hours of his time to help students excel in classes, conduct their own research, gain job experience, and prepare for graduate school or future careers."

Crain served as a research assistant and teaching assistant for Wescombe, who was also her academic advisor.

"Tori is an outstanding student," Wescombe wrote in a recommendation letter for Crain. "Consistently she earned top grades in my courses. These grades reflect her skill and ability in writing, speaking, analyzing data, and thinking about difficult issues. In each of these areas, Tori excels."

Wescombe praised Crain for being organized, a self-starter, and competent at balancing her studies, work, and athletics while she was an undergraduate.

This fall, Crain will attend Portland State University to work toward her Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology and occupational health psychology. She is most interested in the quality of physical and mental health that results from employees' involvement in the workplace, as well as in the daily conflict that people experience as a result of both raising a family and being an employee. She hopes to maintain her current work by researching the sleep habits of employees, their spouses, and their children.

Crain, who played soccer for three years at Whitworth, was named a Northwest Conference Scholar-Athlete in June 2007. She was also a member of Whitworth's Laureate Society, which requires a minimum GPA of 3.75, in fall 2007. Under the supervision of professors Wescombe and Daman Hagerott, Crain combined her passions for athletics and academics during her sophomore year, when she and alumna Jael Hagerott, '08, created a study, "Considering the personalities of women soccer players and the positions they prefer to play on the Whitworth women's soccer team."

The Sleep and Performance Research Center is a 10,000-square-foot research facility located on Washington State University's Riverpoint Campus, in Spokane. The center includes a state-of-the-art sleep research laboratory that accommodates carefully controlled experiments to study the effects of sleep and sleep loss on human cognitive functioning.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,700 students, offers 55 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.