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Undergraduate Student Researcher: Brittany Fata

The first year of a romantic relationship certainly has its ups and downs. Aquinas junior, Brittany Fata, is spending her summer taking a deeper look into the good, the bad, and the ugly of romantic relationships in their beginning stages. She is currently researching changes in the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral aspects of interpersonal relationships.

Fata is majoring in psychology and minoring in biology. She said that she decided to go to Aquinas because of the personalized opportunities the College offers. Fata wasted no time in taking advantage of those opportunities.

Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Victor Karandashev chose Fata to work alongside him in his research on interpersonal relationships, a project he had been working on previously and wished to continue. “I gladly accepted his offer and was honored that he had chosen me out of all his psychology students to be apart of his research and this amazing learning opportunity,” said Fata. Aquinas’ Student Senate provided the research team with the Summer Scholars Research Grant to help fund the project.

Fata and Karandashev’s research will work to define changes in the three domains of attraction: cognitive, emotional, and behavioral. “We are interested in how the domains mentioned above work together and how an individual's emphasis on each changes as the beginning stages of a romantic relationship progresses,” said Fata. Each couple studied must be in their first year of the relationship.

Fifty couples from around the United States volunteered to participate in this research. Each couple will take part in an eight week long longitudinal study. They will fill out an online survey each week and rate their significant other based on how they felt about him/her the previous week.

Fata and Karandashev are interested in any changes and/or patterns in the ratings of each partner. The participants are also asked to mention any significant events that happened that week to change the way they feel about their partner, which will help Fata and Karandashev form a qualitative analysis as to why changes in each domain of attraction occur in relationships.

Fata and Karandashev began preparing for their research this past April by reading literature reviews of the topic. After the eight week course is complete, they will begin analyzing the information they have collected, draw their conclusions, and write a report on the subject.

“Dr. K has been extremely helpful throughout the research project,” said Fata. “He has aided in my knowledge and understanding of statistical concepts and of our online survey program (lime survey). He is encouraging and always so passionate and enthusiastic about the conclusions that we are drawing.”

Fata will present their research at the International Association for Relationship Research (IARR), a conference held in Louisville, Kentucky in October of 2013.

Fata is excited about the work that she has been doing and the opportunities she has been given at Aquinas. Fata closed the interview by stating, “I am truly blessed to be apart of such a great college community where student's ambitions are supported and encouraged and I am so honored to be able to work with Dr. K on this project.”