Newsletter Article

Graduate Student Spotlight: Jessica Canning

Jessica Canning

Jessica Canning (Adult Clinical Area with Mary Larimer) is our latest student to receive predoctoral funding from NIAAA (NRSA, or National Research Service Award) for her research on risk factors with heavy alcohol use. The background of this research award was covered in a previous article. Learn more about Jessica below!

Let's start with the basics, where are you from and where did you complete undergrad/masters?

I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and completed my undergrad at Arizona State University.

How did you wind up at UW/why did you apply here? What do you think about living in Seattle?

I was first interested in UW because of my advisor, Mary Larimer, and her work. I decided to stay because of the laid back vibe and strong collaborative environment at UW. I really enjoyed the people I was hoping to work with, and our program is rich with opportunities I wasn’t going to get elsewhere. Seattle has been a wonderful. It’s so easy to escape into nature, and there’s so much to explore here.

What is your research interest and how did you get into it (what inspires/motivates you)?
I’m interested in risk factors for heavy alcohol use. I’m inspired by all the amazing mentors I’ve had who paved the way and really supported my research ideas. Seeing all the strong women coming up in academia within the addictions field has motivated me in my career choices greatly and influences my pursuit of an academic career.

How did you learn about your funding opportunity and tell us about the application/waiting process?

I first learned about NRSA Fellowships in undergrad and knew I would pursue one as a graduate student. Additionally, my lab has a seminar dedicated to grantsmanship that really gave me a jump start on the process. The application and waiting isn’t easy but it’s worth it. I would definitely say delayed gratification is a necessary skill in grant writing. Each step moves slower than you’d expect, so give yourself time and start early.

How did you feel when you learned that your application was accepted and that you will receive funding?

I couldn’t believe it to be honest. I was excited and awe-struck because this meant I finally get to do my own research. I immediately went out to celebrate by going to a fancy dinner.

What is the name of your project and the funding source?
My project is a National Research Service Award (NRSA) from NIAAA entitled, “Peer Groups and Broad Social Motives’ Influence on College Student Drinking: A Multimethod Approach Using Alcohol Administration and Daily Diary”

How might your research change the world?
My research will help inform the development of prevention for alcohol use among young adults. By understanding how peers influence drinking behavior, we can incorporate more social contextual information into brief interventions rather than only focusing on the individual.

Do you have any advice/tips/suggestions for others who may apply to this opportunity? About graduate study in general?

In addition to starting early, get lots of feedback. I was lucky enough to have some mock review sessions with faculty in my lab and it really helped the project along. I recommend requesting recently funded examples from students but don’t forget to double check the specific requirements in the current funding announcement because they change often.

What do you hope to accomplish with the funding and/or while in the UW Psychology graduate program?

I hope to receive the training needed to manage my own lab after graduate school. On this project I will be co-mentoring several undergraduate students and managing both experimental and survey research. This will set me up for my future career as an academic researcher.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

I love hanging out with my dog, Nala. We spend most of our afternoons at the park and exploring Seattle.

The last book and/or movie you saw and enjoyed?
Avengers: Endgame. “Avengers… assemble” – Steve Rogers

What do you plan to do once you complete your PhD?

I plan to go on to a post-doc and eventually a faculty research position at a large university or in a research medical setting. I hope to continue pursuing grants to fund my future research interests and teach students.

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