Allison Williams ’22
Doctoral student, Class of 2022
The opportunity to be a part of innovative research brought Allison Williams to UofL.
After graduating from Rider University with her undergraduate degree, the New Jersey native began searching for places to continue her education. When she discovered associate professor of psychological and brain sciences Judith Danovitch and her research in experimental psychology, Williams knew the next stop on her academic path would be UofL.
“I really just loved her (Danovitch’s) research and what she did,” Williams said. “I really wanted to work with her, so that was a big motivator for me coming to UofL. And she happened to have a grant that allowed her to take on a graduate student, so I was able to be added and funded through that grant.”
Williams jumped straight into the Experimental Psychology PhD program after earning her undergraduate degree, bypassing a master’s degree and launching a five-year research partnership with Danovitch to explore how children learn.
“I am specifically interested in developmental, so my research is focused on how children learn about the world around them and different types of sources of information,” Williams said. “I look at whether children trust experts or their favorite character, like Mickey Mouse. Do they believe information from these sources and how do they judge how much these sources know?”
Through her work, Williams uncovered a better understanding of how children learn, helping inform teachers and parents of the best ways to teach children.
“Because there’s all of this educational media for children, it’s really important to know what children think about how much they can learn from these sources,” Williams said. “It’s not necessarily bad that children trust Mickey Mouse, but how do we use that information to teach them?”
Throughout her academic career, Williams realized she wanted to follow in her mentor’s footsteps and become a professor herself so she could share her passion for statistics with students, continue her research and engage in service opportunities. She was able to begin working toward her new goal and prepare for a future as a professor through various opportunities, including publishing her research articles, serving on the Graduate Student Council, guest lecturing for her professors as a graduate teaching assistant and participating in teaching workshops.
“Not only has my mentor been amazing in fostering me to be a better researcher and to be able to publish, but I was also able to take professional development classes through PLAN (Professional Development, Life Skills, Academic Development and Networking) in the Graduate School,” Williams said. “I took both semesters of the Graduate Teaching Academy and really learned how to teach so I can eventually become a successful professor and teach human development, research methods and statistics. These opportunities gave me the professional development and experience to better myself as an educator and continue in academia.”
Williams is indeed using those experiences to further her career as she began a postdoctoral position at Boston University after graduating from UofL in May 2022. She is working on multiple projects, one of which is a global study of children’s beliefs and the development of beliefs in religion. That project, funded through the Templeton Foundation, is one of the first major projects to standardize a measurement of beliefs and development across the globe.
“It feels like the education I received is now contributing to the world,” Williams said. “I’ve moved beyond the classroom. I’ve taken what I’ve learned, and now I can make an impact with the skills that I’ve developed.”