Building Web-Based Psychology Experiments

NYU Abu Dhabi’s Post-graduation Practical Training Program allows seniors to work on faculty research projects after graduation.

Alia ElKattan, Class of 2020 spent hours poring through codes and experimenting with them wondering, “how can I make this easier for someone with minimal web development knowledge?”

ElKattan spent her summer after graduation working with Assistant Professor of Psychology Kartik Sreenivasan and Assistant Professor of Psychology Olivia Cheung on transitioning in-person laboratory experiments to web-based experiments. 

An Interdisciplinary Collaboration

As a computer science major writing codes that would be used by the psychology department, ElKattan wanted to provide coding that would support the research that faculty, students, and staff were spending a lot of time and effort on.

Alia ElKattan, Class of 2020.

Psychology experiments often run similar trials with small variations such as repeatedly showing respondents visual stimuli of small shapes on screens for milliseconds, then asking respondents to record where they saw a particular shape or color. 

Bearing that in mind, ElKattan used Javascript to create a list of common functions used during virtual experiments such as re-adjusting the sizes of shapes on screen to be consistent for different users. To ensure a smooth transition to laboratory researchers eventually, ElKattan made sure her documentation was well organized so the work can easily be independently recreated or edited.


Even in a post-COVID world, (Alia’s) work will improve the efficiency and scope of our data collection.

Assistant Professor of Psychology Kartik Sreenivasan

ElKattan has long been interested in the problem-solving aspect of computer science and building providing solutions through technology. For her, this research was the perfect marriage of leveraging her computer science knowledge and supporting science academic research. While ElKattan is interested in studying the interplay between internet technology and socio-political systems, her immediate future plan is to return to Abu Dhabi to start her work as a digital analyst at a consulting firm.

Alia ElKattan’s research position was one of many from NYU Abu Dhabi’s Post-graduation Practical Training Program (PPTP). The program allows faculty to appoint graduating seniors to work full-time on faculty research projects in the summer following their graduation, giving the graduated senior time to transition into the real world while providing the faculty with support in research.

Learn more about NYUAD’s undergraduate research.