By Stephanie Villafuerte,
English major, Communication minor
Communication & Marketing Intern

Jason GriffinJason Griffin’s research career kicked off when a professor at Ventura College connected him with CSUCI Psychology Associate Professor Kimmy Kee-Rose.

It was the summer before he was set to transfer to CSUCI, and Dr. Kee-Rose was teaching a course called Psychology 300: Statistics and Research Methods. The first-generation student eagerly enrolled and soon found himself under Kee-Rose’s wing. She became his mentor in everything psychology related.

“Without a doubt, the most impactful person in my education at CI was Dr. Kimmy Kee-Rose,” Griffin said. “[She] taught me the fundamentals of designing, testing, and interpreting original empirical research. She ultimately influenced my early career.”

After graduating in Spring 2014 with his B.A. in Psychology, the Camarillo native pursued his master’s in Experimental Psychology at the University of Colorado. While there, he researched neurocognitive functioning in older adults and those on the autism spectrum, and gained field work experience visiting clinical settings such as the United States Air Force Academy where he studied concussion cases.

Through his training and bond with his research supervisor, Griffin discovered how he wanted to use his extensive knowledge.

“I became fully confident that I was prepared to dedicate my life to being a research scientist. My passion is to make a substantial impact in the lives of those on the autism spectrum.”

This led Griffin to apply to Pennsylvania State University’s Ph.D. program in Cognitive Psychology. Under the leadership of a new mentor, Griffin has taken on his biggest project in the field thus far.   

“I was particularly interested in a neuroscience focus, which is how I came to accept a position in the Developmental Neuroscience Lab at Penn State,” he explained. “I have spent the last four years working on a computer-based intervention designed to improve social functioning in adolescents on the autism spectrum.”

With funding provided by the National Institute of Mental Health, Griffin helped create Social Games for Autistic Adolescents (SAGA), a video game that simulates how social cues are used in real life. His role is to ensure the game is efficient and safe in teaching its intended audience how to interpret information.

Although not yet complete, SAGA has already proven to be effective as it continues to progress. With that, so does the researcher’s list of responsibilities.

“My days include reading up on scientific literature, working on grant applications, and managing data. Previously, I’ve written peer-reviewed research articles for outlets such as Psychological Bulletin, Molecular Autism, and Neuropsychology Review,” Griffin said.

While taxing at times, the Ph.D. candidate knows the hard work is worth it.

“Working on SAGA is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it’ll have such a positive impact in the world. And it’s rewarding to know that I’m overall contributing to something that is much, much bigger than myself.”

Griffin will be graduating in Spring 2022 with his Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology. Afterward, he plans on working at a research institution where he can gain tenure-track and continue his studies related to the autism community. He also hopes to own his own laboratory where he can mentor future graduate students.

He gives real-life advice to those interested in a competitive research career:

“Get as much direct research experience as possible such as conference presentations and publications. It’s one of the best ways to increase your chances at graduate school. Life as an independent researcher is a game of failure, so I cannot stress how important it is to be persistent in attaining your goals.”

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