Salif Mahamane Wins Top Research Award at Regional Psychology Convention
New Mexico Highlands University psychology graduate student Salif Mahamane won a top Psi Chi Regional Research Award at the Western Psychological Association annual convention in Los Angeles in May.
Psi Chi is the international honor society for psychology students. Highlands University Psi Chi students presented four psychology studies at the 11-state WPA convention, with Mahamane coauthoring three of the studies.
“My cognitive psychology study investigated priming people to think about nature by unscrambling sentences with a nature theme,” Mahamane. “In the next part of the study, participants identified nature words most accurately when they had unscrambled nature sentences.
“With further research, the findings have implications for increasing eco-friendly behavior,” Mahamane said.
Mahamane also won a Psi Chi Regional Research Award last year for a study he coauthored with 2010 Highlands’ psychology graduate Travis Simcox, who entered a cognitive neuroscience Ph.D. program at the University of Pittsburgh.
Highlands University cognitive psychology professor Maura Pilotti is Mahamane’s adviser and research sponsor. He conducts his research in Pilotti’s Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at Highlands, where he is also a research assistant.
In addition, Mahamane is a teaching assistant and supervises five other psychology teaching assistants.
“Salif is extremely skillful at all aspects of research, from developing an idea to analyzing the data and generating conclusions,” Pilotti said. “He has a very creative, eclectic mind with the ability to bridge the gap between disciplines like neurobiochemistry and cognitive psychology. He’s ready for a Ph.D. program.”
The 24-year-old from Waco, Texas will finalize his master’s thesis in cognitive psychology this summer.
“For my thesis, I’m testing my hypothesis that certain environments, especially natural environments, are good places to restore mental energy after being fatigued,” Mahamane said.
He will begin applying to Ph.D. programs this fall.
“I’ve always wanted to teach, and earning a Ph.D. in psychology will allow me to make a career of teaching at the college level and conducting research,” Mahamane said.
Later this month, Mahamane will present another research study he completed about bilingualism and cognitive processes at the Association for Psychological Science annual conference in Washington, D.C.
While at Highlands, Mahamane was active in Psi Chi community service projects like helping at the Las Vegas Cold Weather Shelter.
“As Psi Chi honor students we’re recognized for being good students, but when we do something for the community, we use our abilities for the common good,” Mahamane said. “It’s also interesting because you meet people with psychological needs, and it gives you ideas for real-life ways you can help in the psychology field.”
He also served as a judge for the annual Northeastern New Mexico Science and Engineering Fair, which Highlands sponsors.
Mahamane gained more classroom experience spring semester when he taught a Highlands University dual-credit introductory psychology course at Mora High School.
“I told my Mora students that as you learn more about psychology you can apply it to your daily life, whether it’s using memory concepts to study for tests or observing conformity at a sporting event,” Mahamane said.