Psychology student gains great experience through independent research project

Anna Montgomery’s love of research started early. She found research papers fascinating in high school and read them in her spare time. That hasn’t changed for Montgomery at NDSU, but now she’s the one doing the research, writing the papers and presenting to experts.

The psychology and behavioral statistics senior is working on an honors thesis about mindfulness.

“Mindfulness practices moment-to-moment awareness of your thoughts, and inner and outer experiences without being judgmental,” said Montgomery.

It’s a type of meditation that is shown to reduce stress and anxiety and is used for pain management. Clayton Hilmert, associate professor of psychology, started studying mindfulness and Montgomery took interest.

“I’m setting out to see if people think they’re being mindful, is that enough? Does mindfulness make a difference in a person’s health?” said Montgomery. “I’m seeing if mindfulness has lost its meaning through growth in pop culture.”

She has online surveys set up for the NDSU community and so far, has more than 300 responses. She’ll start gathering results in the next few weeks and go over the findings. She’ll present the research in the spring.

“Our shared interest in how mindfulness may be benefitting individuals’ health has led to this important project concerned with how difficult it is to demonstrate its effects in a scientific study,” said Hilmert. “I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Anna eventually becomes an elite researcher, finding ways to help others.” 

Montgomery presented the mindfulness research in front of a board of doctors earlier this year. She also assists with other psychology research, including high stress reactor studies and studies about behaviors toward sleep. She’s presented that research at conferences, too.

“Once you get into your niche at NDSU, you have so many opportunities,” she said.

Montgomery plans to attend graduate school after earning her bachelor’s degree this spring. Her goal is to earn her master’s in public health, focused on epidemiology. In fact, her research at NDSU really took off when she took a human anatomy class.

“I’ve always been interested in nutrition and the spread of disease,” said Montgomery, who completed an internship in public health over the summer in Africa.

Her background in psychology and all of her research experience will suit her well as she continues her education.

“It’s amazing how many things you’ll find if you just look for them,” said Montgomery. “If somebody gives you an open door, even if it looks scary, go through it.”

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