Summer Research Opportunity: UVA


Interns will work on an ongoing research project(s) with UVA faculty mentor(s) and a graduate student co-mentor(s).

Internship work may include:

  • reading background literature
  • collecting, coding, and analyzing data
  • writing a section of a paper
  • participating in research meetings
  • presenting on research

Please note that due to the nature of research in the education sciences and the time needed to conduct a full research study, students will not develop an independent research project.  Instead, they will join an existing research team made up of faculty and students, led by their mentor.  Descriptions of research projects and the mentors are shared below.



  • Project Title: The Role of Play and Parents in Children’s Spatial Development

    Project PI(s): Jamie Jirout, PhD

    Project Descriptions: Our lab studies children’s play, and this project will focus on how children learn differently from digital and physical spatial play. Spatial thinking is used throughout our lives for many everyday tasks, such as reading a map or putting together furniture, and is also very important for learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Children show gaps in spatial abilities as early as school entry (e.g., across socio-economic groups and gender), which could help explain underrepresentation of the same groups in STEM fields in college majors and careers. Our research focuses on addressing these early gaps by identifying how spatial skills develop during the preschool years. Young children learn from play, and we focus on spatial play as a potential explanation and intervention for spatial learning. Children today engage in much of their play using digital devices and apps. A key question we ask is whether digital and physical versions of spatial play differ in their quality and their impact on spatial skills. Other questions addressed are how parents affect their children’s spatial play and how language and gesture shape spatial learning. These questions are studied through experimental and correlational work including providing spatial play experiences, measuring change in spatial skills, and coding parent and child behavior during play.

    Interns will collect data from participants in the laboratory, code behavior from videos, read relevant literature, and help to do analyses of different spatial activities and tasks. Interns will also have the opportunity to conduct studies in a local children’s museum and engage in community outreach. Depending on the intern’s experience and interests, it may be possible to plan, write, and submit a conference abstract related to the work.

    Faculty Bio: Jamie Jirout, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Educational Psychology and Applied Developmental Sciences program. She studies young children’s spatial learning and development, playful learning, science education, and curiosity and question asking.

    Grad Student Mentor(s): Sierra Eisen, Psychology


    We offer a paid internship ($3000) including housing and additional stipend for meals.

    Eligibility is based on a 3.0 or higher GPA, interest in education research and plans for graduate training, as well as membership in a group that is underrepresented in the field of education research. See our website for more info.

    Projects that students can choose from are listed here.