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Jared Reser

Statement of Research Interests

My personal and professional goal is to continue my efforts to make a contribution to
society as a research scientist. I am highly intrinsically motivated to continue publishing in
my areas of interest, and I am constantly pushing myself to generate and refine scientific
hypotheses. My main focus, evident in my websites, blog and articles, is to develop
theories that help to integrate cognitive psychology, clinical neuroscience and integrative
biology. I also intend to extend the graduate work that I have done in collaboration with
others and continue researching the cognitive foundations of belief and the implications
that beliefs have for mental and metabolic health. In the spring of 2012, I finished a Ph.D.
in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences division of the Psychology Department at USC under
faculty advisor, Dr. David Walsh.

Work experience in academic, research-oriented and commercial jobs has afforded me
a wide breadth of knowledge and skills. These experiences have helped me to develop
confidence and competency in reviewing and analyzing literature, designing experiments,
and developing research manuscripts. I have prior experience with fMRI, EEG, Qualtrics,
web design and some psychophysiological techniques. The essays and articles on my
personal websites and blog should attest to my writing ability, web design skills and
breadth of interests. I feel like my best selling point is my inexhaustible passion for clinical
neuroscience and cognitive psychology.  I read avidly in my personal time and I am well
versed in a very broad array of psychological and neuroscientific literature.  

The materials listed under publications in my vita contain well over 2,000 references and
amount to more than 600 single-spaced pages. I have over 2,000 pages of copyrighted
but unpublished scientific writings which I hope to refine toward various articles and
books.  I am now developing four books. The first book is about consciousness and
working memory; the second concerns the adaptive value of intelligence; the third is on
altruism, mindfulness and their neurobiological correlates; and I am now writing a second
book on belief, its neural underpinnings and its philosophical implications.

I am currently finishing an article about the epigenetics underlying the neural degeneration
in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex that occurs during chronic stress. The article on
chronic stress represents a comprehensive analysis of the stress cascade phenomenon
in terms of both the epigenetics that underlie it and the selective pressures that may be
responsible for it. I develop a small number of cohesive and straightforward hypotheses
based on the disease’s epidemiological patterns, neurological selectivity, clinical and
psychiatric presentations and similarities to known, adaptive syndromes in animals. It is
well accepted that analyzing disease states from an evolutionary or comparative
perspective can ultimately do much to inform and influence medical intervention
strategies.  The article goes even further than this though and identifies specific metabolic
and molecular pathways that I think are critical, and must be targeted by medical
investigation. I consider related topics to constitute an ongoing research endeavor and I
am currently developing a number of related articles. I have also begun to write an article
on neural synchrony on the level of cortical minicolumns that I hope to expand into an
integrated theory of consciousness and phenomenality. The most recent research can be
found on my website:

I also intend to extend the research on beliefs that I have done with Dr. David Walsh. I
have organized and implemented several studies with members of my research group,
The Walsh Decision Research Laboratory. We have performed 5 studies and are
currently designing three others related to the facets and dynamics of belief formulation.
Our studies involve surveys that are designed to identify the causal factors that determine
belief formulation and belief strength. Certainty strength generally serves as our
dependent variable and other measures that we receive from respondents, which serve
as predictor variables, include personal likeability, perceived relevance, expected
permanence, substantiating evidence, perceived logic, importance to self-identity, and
the influence of personal contacts, authority figures and the social community. In fact, we
have been able to show, using multiple regression, that these factors explain a very large
proportion of the variability in ‘certainty strength’ within our sample. The next study I will
perform will take a closer, more manipulative, look at the specific roles of evidence,
authority and self-identity as these proved to be the most significant variables.

A related study that I am now submitting for publication sought to determine whether
people's self-reported beliefs predicted weight management behaviors, and whether
these behaviors in turn predicted BMI. These expected results were strongly supported by
data gathered from 996 participants, who responded to a questionnaire, reporting their
height, weight, beliefs about various aspects of weight management, and personal weight-
management behaviors, including exercise activities and eating habits. Overall, 40% of
the variance in BMI within our sample could be predicted by a combination of health
beliefs and their associated eating and exercise behaviors. I am currently writing a
research plan to repeat this study with a larger sample and more varied predictors of BMI.
I am open to teaching courses in any area of psychology, neuroscience or biology. I am
fully credentialed to teach biology in California state classrooms (CBEST) and have
extensive knowledge of cell biology, genetics and medicine. I would be well prepared to
teach courses such as: behavioral neuroscience, clinical management of
psychopathology, cognitive neuroscience, cognitive processing, developmental
psychology, evolutionary psychology, functional neuroanatomy, learning and memory, and

I am an honest and humble person, I enjoy teaching and learning and I do my best to
present course material with clear thinking and palpable enthusiasm.

Undergrad Autobiographical Description

Enthusiastic curiosity and the joy of learning have been predominant aspects of my
personality since my youth.  My interest in science and academia dates back to
elementary school when I first became enthralled with learning how and why things work
the way they do.  Even then, I would search libraries and book stores for information that
could teach me more about what I wanted to know.  Because of my early enthusiasm, my
youth became a period marked by the pairing of neurological reward with learning and
critical analysis.  This conditioning process led me towards the internalization of classical
and abstruse concepts and towards the conviction that I wanted to make my personal
contribution to society as a research scientist.  Since this time, I have focused on two
main goals: developing myself within the academic, professional sphere and synthesizing
learned information into an informed world view.

Once enrolled at USC, I realized that pursuing a major in psychology would be a natural
way to focus my interests.  Perhaps the aspect that I found most intriguing about
psychology was its broad scope and wide array of applications.  I quickly became
involved in extracurricular activities associated with the psychology department.  I was a
member and active contributor to Psi Chi, the national honor society for psychology, and I
was also the funding coordinator for the Forensic Psychology Club.  I now hold a Bachelor
of Arts degree in Psychology from USC along with two minor degrees, one in
neuroscience and the other in business.

Beginning in my sophomore year, I secured a position in the social psychology
department as a research assistant.  Working in the lab was a rewarding experience for
me because I was determined, from the beginning, to contribute as much as I could to the
efforts of the principle experimenters.  My determination influenced me to work on lab
projects at home and during weekends.  As in other jobs that I have had in the past, my
supervisors noticed my devotion and I was quickly promoted.  Within the next few months,
I was no longer expected to be responsible for tasks like running subjects and entering
experimental data into computers.  Instead, I was responsible for collecting research
articles from the book and journalstacks, scouring the articles for relevant information and
data, presenting this information to the department and assisting in the development of
research manuscripts.  I assisted with projects where we tested for subtle linguistic
evidence of heuristic biases, delved into unexplored facets of the fundamental attribution
error, and attempted to determine the effects of cognitive load on information
processing.  The lessons that I learned in the lab were invaluable and they probably
contributed to the strong “A”s I earned in both “Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences” and
“Research Methods.”

In my junior year, I founded the Natural Science Interest Club, and I remained president of
the club for two years.  Members met weekly to discuss and debate subjects ranging from
popular scientific phenomena to more abstruse, theoretical concepts.  Soon I began
writing short essays which I dispersed during club meetings.  Within a few months of
forming the club, I perfected my skills with both Sitebuilder and Dreamweaver enabling
me to create my website, I used this site to post the
essays that I wrote online where they would be accessible to club members and other
interested parties.  My site now contains over one hundred essays about science,
technology and philosophy.  The club recently disbanded, but I still post new essays and
other informative content from week to week and I plan to continue to use the site to
informally publish my thoughts and ideas.  I want to encourage you to visit the site as the
pages are a good indicator of my proficiency with web design applications, and the
essays should help attest to my writing ability.

In my senior year, I completed an honors, faculty-directed, research project which, I
believe, prepared me for the rigors of graduate school.  I performed a study that analyzed
the neurological correlates of approach and withdrawal using electroencephalography.  
By the end of the semester, I became adept at conducting electroencephalographic
(EEG) experimentation and at interpreting and analyzing the resultant data.  I was allowed
to present my concluding research paper to the faculty and was rewarded by the
neuroscience department with an “A.”

I also have extensive commercial (non-academic) work experience which has helped me
to refine my professional demeanor and to hone practical skills and qualities.  These jobs
have helped me to develop competency and confidence with letter drafting, proofreading
and professional correspondence.  Please see my resume for contact information and
more detail.
Jared Reser's
Personal Statement