Melissa Vega’s research interest lies in the interplay between our social identities and belief system, and how different identities, social contexts, and belief systems can impact attitude towards diversity and group-based inequality.
Under the NYU Abu Dhabi PhD Student Fellowship in Psychology program, Vega works with her two mentors, Associate Professor of Psychology Eric Knowles and Program Head of Psychology; Associate Professor of Psychology Jaime Napier to investigate how Latino skin tone and their ideology about hierarchies are related to their support for social justice movements and policies aimed at reducing inequalities.
When Vega completes her coursework in New York and heads back to NYUAD to continue her research there, she hopes to expand this research by examining how these relationships play out within the populations in the Middle East.
Here at NYU Abu Dhabi, I have a pathway between two worlds, which I really like.
The structure of the program suits Vega, who is currently in New York completing her first year. “I really wanted to take advantage of my time here to start some research that might be a bit more US focused,” she explained. Having a gateway between New York and Abu Dhabi is a great benefit of the program. “I realized I can really broaden the scope of the field,” she added.
Vega thrives on activities and has a demanding academic schedule. She meets weekly with both her advisors to go through some analysis work and makes plans for the week ahead. Vega also works as a teaching assistant for the semester in a statistics class. Weekly, she attends Brown Bag Tuesday, a colloquium series where graduate psychology students present their research findings. First-year students like her will have their turn to present at the end of the year, so as to give them time to progress their research findings.
Having met both her advisors prior to joining the program, Vega already had a sense of their student-advisor compatibility. “I really like the relationship I was going to have with both my advisors,” Vega said. Vega’s advisors have been really helpful in making sure she maintains a balance of her workload and are available for troubleshooting.