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Graduate Student Profile: Olivia Atherton, Psychology

Meet UC Davis Graduate Student Olivia Atherton

  • Department
  • Program
  • Previous degrees and colleges
    BS Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Where did you grow up?
    A few small towns in Illinois – an unincorporated community (Custer Park, IL), a small town off of Historic Rt. 66 (Braidwood, IL), and a rural, farm village where my high school graduating class was 40 people (Saybrook, IL).
  • Where do you live now?
    Davis, CA
  • What's your favorite spot in Davis?
    Cloud Forest Café (preferably a table by the windows)
  • How do you relax?
    Hot yoga, cooking, painting, photo walks, trivia nights
  • What was the last book you read for pleasure?
    The Voice Inside by Adrian Eller (a friend of mine’s first published book!
  • What was the last film you saw at the theater?
    Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I think?
  • Research interests
    I am interested in personality trait development across the life course – how and why people become who they are. More specifically, I’m interested in the development of self-regulation (i.e., what factors shape an individual’s ability to control their behaviors and emotions).
  • Dissertation title or topic
    The Development of Self-Regulation from Late Childhood through Early Adulthood
  • Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research
    Your personality influences the way you behave and the life outcomes you experience. Those same life experiences can subsequently shape your personality in important ways (sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse).
  • Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?
    Dr. Brent Roberts – at UIUC – taught my ‘Introduction to Personality Psychology’ class, and I later became a research assistant in his lab. He was a phenomenal mentor to me, and I wouldn’t be here without him.
  • Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?
    Any text that Ravenna Helson has written over the course of her career. She is a very inspiring emeritus professor, who studied the psychology of women, creativity, and social roles/clocks. She not only conducted foundational research on personality, but was also one of the first psychology professors to exclusively study women over the life course. I admire her work because it embodies studying the whole person, which is really difficult to do!
  • What's the best thing about being a grad student?
    What’s the best thing about being a grad student? The best part about being a graduate student is having… - The ability to be creative in my work and research questions - Rick Robins as my graduate advisor! - A flexible schedule and workplace - A network of graduate students and professors at UC Davis who are very insightful, talented, and supportive - The opportunity to travel around the country/world for conferences - The ability to study interesting phenomena about human behavior
  • What's the worst?
    When Mplus gives you error messages that you do not know how to fix…
  • If you weren't a grad student, what would you be doing?
    I would be working for a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged youth. And, for fun, I would be tirelessly trying to convince National Geographic to hire me as a travel photographer in my free time.
  • Finally, please ask yourself a question - "What was the last concert you went to, and where?"
    I saw The National at the Greek Theater in Berkeley.

Graduate student profile courtesy of the UC Davis College of Letters and Science.

About Graduate Studies

Graduate Studies at UC Davis includes over 100 dynamic degree programs and a diverse and interactive student body from around the world. Known for our state-of-the-art research facilities, productive laboratories and progressive spirit – UC Davis offers collaborative and interdisciplinary curricula through graduate groups and designated emphasis options, bringing students and faculty of different academic disciplines together to address real-world challenges.

UC Davis graduate students and postdoctoral scholars become leaders in their fields: researchers, teachers, politicians, mentors and entrepreneurs. They go on to guide, define and impact change within our global community.

For information on Graduate Studies’ current strategic initiatives, visit the Graduate Studies strategic plan page.

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