*** Dr. Dvorak WILL be accepting a new graduate student for Fall 2024***

I am especially interested in students that want to do research on aspects of LGBTQIA+ Health Disparities (SUD, Eating Pathology, and/or Suicide). 

Both graduate and undergraduate students in our lab have the opportunity to present and publish research, if they wish to do so. 

Undergrad RAs

I accept a limited number of highly motivated undergraduate research assistants to work in our lab. I am particularly interested in undergraduates who plan to pursue post-graduate education. Many of my former undergrad RAs have gone on to grad/med school. I continue to collaborate and publish papers with several of these students. If you are interested in working in our lab, please complete the lab application here.

Graduate Students

I’m often willing to accept one clinical graduate student into our lab each Fall. Students applying to the graduate program who are interested in working in our lab should contact me directly to make me aware of your application. If you'd like a graduate students perspective on our lab, the program, or UCF, you can contact my current grad students (Angie, ArdhysEmily, Madison, or Emma).  

Statement on Diversity

The Clinical Program as a whole, and our lab in particular, places a strong emphasis on increasing the level of diversity (broadly defined) in our discipline. I would encourage you to address the ways in which you can contribute to diversity in your application letter. This does not specifically mean diversity in the traditional sense (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, etc.), but also in your approach to understanding diversity, and the ways in which individuals from various backgrounds can form a common understanding and acceptance in the context of our many differences. This does not mean that having a diverse background will increase your chance of admission. However, being able to articulate your approach and acceptance of diversity may. 

My Approach to Mentorship

***I've been told that the statements below feel daunting to applicants that may have limited research experience. To be sure, we do some sophisticated stuff in the lab. However, I have no expectations that students come in prepared to do any of the things listed below. My only expectation is that students be collaborative, supportive, and eager to learn.

Becoming a psychologist is a developmental process that requires you to push yourself. I'll ask you to do that, but generally at your own pace. It's been my experience that once students start working on projects, the environment I try to foster keeps them engaged and productive. If you're looking for a competitive environment with high stress coupled with high productivity, we aren't going to be your cup of tea. However, if you're looking for a place to learn new and novel approaches to understanding behavior, testing new ideas, and having a good time while doing it... we might be for you. I would highly encourage you to reach out directly to the current students in our lab to see what it's really like. 

Graduate students in the lab are, in essence, research project managers. Often my graduate students will oversee a large study in which they are responsible for scheduling lab operations and troubleshooting project issues. I place a lot of trust in my graduate students, and I expect them to be good problem solvers. I see graduate students in our lab as junior colleagues who I will interact with for the rest of our careers. Indeed, if you ask my students, they will tell you that the lab is a collective, and when I refer to the lab, I call it "Our Lab". My graduate students are involved in every decision made in the lab. They offer suggestions on lab protocol, and are even instrumental in helping me select future graduate students. Thus, I am quite selective in the students I am willing to accept. Students who work with me should be:

a) Highly motivated and excited about examining mechanisms of, and interventions for, health-risk behaviors;

b) Eager to present and publish these findings through high quality scientific outlets; and 

c) Interested in developing expertise in a variety of advanced statistical and methodological approaches.

Preference is given to students interested in careers where research is an important component (e.g., academia, research hospitals, major research centers, etc.). As a graduate student member of our lab you can expect to: 

(1) Develop expertise in the theoretical underpinnings of self-regulation and health-risk behaviors; 

(2) Engage in high quality assessment and interventions research; 

(3) Learn to write computer applications and programs for the assessment and intervention of risk-behavior (previous programming experience is not required); 

(4) Gain experience in a host of methodological approaches (e.g., experimental, longitudinal, cross-sectional, and experience sampling/ecological momentary assessment) and advanced statistical analyses (e.g., GLM, Mediation/Moderation, GzLM, Modeling Nested/Longitudinal Data, Advanced Latent Variable Modeling, IRT, Inflated-zero Models, Spatial Analysis, Count/Categorical/Limited DV Models, and much more);

(5) Attend and present research at scientific conferences;

(6) Develop skills in scientific writing;

(7) Publish research in scientific journals; 

(8) Assist in writing (or even write your own) research grants;

(9) Gain experience in reviewing manuscripts submitted for publication;

(10) Supervise undergraduate research assistants;

(11) Have a great time interacting with other burgeoning clinical scientists while developing collaborations that will last throughout your career.

As you can see, I place a strong emphasis on scientific training. I feel that exploring the mechanisms of risky/health compromising behavior, and identifying ways to intervene to reduce this behavior, is interesting and exciting. I seek students who share my enthusiasm for scientific discovery. The process of discovery can be quite rewarding, however, it is also demanding and requires a significant commitment. Thus, individuals who are primarily interested in a career in clinical practice will likely not enjoy working in our lab.

Finally, I want you to hear the best kept secret in applying to PhD programs in Clinical Psychology. These programs are hyper competitive. At UCF (a fairly average PhD program) we have ~250 applications each year, and are only able to take 5-6 students. A competitive applicant knows that the "Personal Statement" is really a "Research Statement." This is true for UCF and virtually every other PhD program in the country. In your application, highlight the research you want to do, both as a graduate student and beyond. Let us know how that research ties in with the things we are doing in our labs. Be creative, create links where they may not be obvious. Yes, it is important to discuss yourself and your background, but try to weave that into how that brought you to the research area you're interested in. I don't believe I have ever seen a student accepted that did not have an excellent research... err... "personal" statement. Call it what you will, but make sure it highlights research above all else.  

Rob Smith-Dvorak

Director REALE-TIME Lab 

Graduate Application Links:

University of Central Florida

UCF College of Graduate Studies

UCF Department of Psychology

UCF Clinical Psychology Program

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