Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Psychology students attend, present research at national conference

November 17th, 2017
Breanna O'Handley during her presentation

Once again, several StFX psychology students were able to attend and to present their research at a national conference.

StFX psychology professor Dr. Karen Blair, students Breanna O’Handley, Emilia Lorenz, and Rhea Ashley Hoskin and Dr. Blair’s master’s student Kay Jenson of Acadia attended the recent Canadian Sex Research Forum (CSRF) Annual Meeting & Conference in Fredericton, NB.

The students had to submit abstracts in the spring and their submissions were accepted for presentation.

The conference follows on the heels of the Canadian Psychological Association national meeting, which Dr. Blair and seven students attended in June.

Once again, the students were supported by the Jules Léger Fund to attend the conference, and once again they were some of the only undergraduate students in attendance, Dr. Blair says.

Ms. O’Handley, a Guysborough, NS native who graduated with an honours psychology degree in May, presented her thesis research, which she conducted at StFX with Dr. Blair, in the form of an oral talk to an audience of 83 people. The talk also touched on the research work of Dr. Blair’s current honours student Emilia Lorenz.

“Her talk was extremely well received by some of the top sex researchers in Canada and she did a great job of answering questions from many of these researchers,” Dr. Blair says.

Ms. Hoskin and Ms. Jenson presented a poster on research that they have worked on together.

L-r, Rhea Ashley Hoskin, Kay Jenson, and Emilia Lorenz


“It was an incredible experience to have the opportunity to attend and present at CSRF,” Ms. O’Handley says. “It was fantastic to be able to attend another conference, especially one so relevant to my current work. While I still conduct research with Dr. Blair, I now work with Student Life at StFX as the Gender and Sexual Diversity Student Advisor, therefore many talks at CSRF were relevant to my new position at StFX.”

She says she was able to attend talks concerning sexual consent, non-binary dating experiences, and campus sexual assault, “all of which provided me with valuable information to bring to my work here at X. Attending academic conferences and staying up-to-date with related research is proving to be an invaluable experience in helping to bring the best services possible to current StFX students.”

Ms. O’Handley’s undergraduate research examined the psychophysiology of sexual prejudice. “The data I presented on the indistinguishable salivary a-amylase responses of heterosexual men to male same-sex kissing images is just one piece of a larger project happening in the KLB Research lab,” she says. “The larger project is trying to understand whether people may show physiological or emotional signs of their prejudice, which may then be interpreted as signs of danger/threat by same-sex couples, who in turn, may then be more reluctant to share affection in public.”

Currently, Ms. Lorenz is working to analyze the facial expressions of participants that viewed same-sex PDAs, in order to pinpoint what emotions participants felt.

Ms. O’Handley says she was the only undergraduate student to give an oral presentation at the conference. Having the chance to gain experience presenting at conferences like CSRF and CPA has been wonderful, says the Guysborough Academy graduate.

“Few undergraduates have the same opportunities afforded to them – especially at larger institutions,” she says. “The small school experience at StFX has made it easy to get involved with research at the undergraduate level and the Jules Léger Fund has made trips to CSRF and CPA possible for me.

“Additionally, attending such a small university allows for students to have more connections with their professors, such as Dr. Blair. Dr. Blair has given her students, not just her own honours thesis students, opportunities to attend academic conferences and become immersed in research that they would not have otherwise. We are lucky to have professors at StFX that care about their students, know them on a first name basis, and are willing to go the extra mile to foster their academic growth.”

In addition to her work at StFX, Ms. O’Handley continues to work with Dr. Blair in the KLB Research Lab and together they are launching a new study soon looking at memories of coming out from both an LGBTQIA2S+ person’s perspective as well as a parent perspective.







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