Galen Cassidy ’22

Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, Orangeburg, NY

The Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research (NKI) is part of the New York State Office of Mental Health. Founded in 1952, their mission is to improve the lives of those who live with major psychological disorders, and their research focuses mainly on clinical neuroscience, with major projects including psychopharmacological interventions for disorders like schizophrenia, dementia research, and neuroimaging. NKI is also the steward of the Rockland Sample Initiative, a longitudinal sample of over 1,000 adults and children from communities across Rockland County. Measures collected in this dataset include a number of different physiological and psychological assessments, as well as genetic and neuroimaging data.

Writing code using Python and R.

My work with NKI was as a research assistant, and focused on two major projects. The first was a data description paper for the Adult Longitudinal Group of the Rockland Sample Initiative (ALG), which showcases the publicly available data for this subsample, as well as a few uses to which this data can be put. My work on the ALG data paper was mainly data exploration, visualization, and analysis, and was conducted using the programming language Python. I met with my supervisors once a week to go over the data products I had made, get feedback, and receive my assignment for the upcoming week. The second project was more of an investigation of the social determinants of a metric of brain health in an aging population called Relative Brain Age (RBA). Specifically, we are looking at the role of individual demographic factors (like sex, race, socio-economic status) and neighborhood environmental factors (using a metric of these factors called the Area Deprivation Index) in predicting differences in RBA. I first conducted a literature review of existing research on social determinants of health, particularly as it relates to neighborhood and to neurology, before shifting to a data analysis role, using both R and Python languages for programming. Despite my internship officially ending, I will continue to consult on both of these projects, and my name will be included on both publications when they are eventually submitted to academic journals.

My time at NKI gave me a chance to get some experience with clinical psychology research, which is something I’m currently planning on spending a good chunk of my professional life doing, as I’m interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in this field after graduation. The research experience is really valuable not only for building my skills and my credentials, but also as a chance to see if I actually enjoy the research and if a Ph.D. would be the right career path for me. It’s also helping me refine my area of interest; I’m definitely more interested in the social determinants side of things than the clinical neuroscience side. I am grateful for this excellent opportunity to explore research in clinical psychology.