Impact of Psychosocial Factors on the Immune System

“This experience taught me how difficult it can be to get a study up and running, but also how rewarding it is once you begin to see some results. It has really intrigued me to get to know the different kinds of psychological research being done."

"Dr. Marsland is also very easy to contact and a great communicator which is super helpful in something like directed research where you are learning constantly and have a lot of questions.”

Supervising Faculty: Anna Marsland, PhD, RN

Contact: Zakary Hutchinson, MSFS, 

Area of Research: Health psychology/psychoneuroimmunology

Description: Dr. Marsland's Behavioral Immunology Laboratory is recruiting undergraduate research assistants for the upcoming semester! Research in our laboratory explores how psychological and social factors affect the function of the immune system and the process of aging. Our group’s overall research aim is to explore how these phenomena affect susceptibility to disease in humans – a truly interdisciplinary focus. Students will have direct involvement with the many research projects our lab is involved with, some of which Dr. Marsland is a primary investigator (PI) on, and others in which she is a collaborator with researchers outside of the University of Pittsburgh. Undergraduate Research Assistants help prepare samples for storage, set up experiments/assays, record results into study databases, analyze and refine finished data sets, and assist with the maintenance of laboratory inventories and equipment, organize, and prepare clinical samples for analysis, as well as other tasks, under the direction of the laboratory manager, Zak Hutchinson and Dr. Marsland. Our laboratory is thoroughly committed to not just educating our students, but also mentoring them so we can help prepare them for success after their time with the University is over.  We also pride ourselves on our commitment to inclusion and diversity. Computer skills are a must and working knowledge of Microsoft Outlook and Excel are required.  Applicants should be independent and responsible and be able to ensure a safe working environment. In addition, applicants should possess excellent organizational skills, attention to detail, and be able to to sensitively interact with others as a part of the greater laboratory team.

Duties of Students: Students should expect to routinely process clinical specimens (including but not limited to serum, plasma, and whole blood) in the wet lab.  In addition, undergraduates will be introduced to biological methods used to quantify markers of inflammation and the statistical analysis methods regularly used in this field.  By presenting data and interpreting papers from the literature, students in the lab gain a familiarity with scientific and technical writing – skills that are useful in any scientific field, not just this one.  Of course, by participating in undergraduate research, students gain a wealth of intangible skills, such as teamwork, planning, and problem solving – all of which are valuable tools for any future endeavor.

All psychology students -- along with chemistry and biology majors -- are encouraged to apply for this unique opportunity.  Pre-med students are also welcome to apply.  This work qualifies as guided research, for credit, but will take place in a clinical setting. 


  • Overall GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • 12 credits of Psychology (including current term)
  • STAT 0200/1000/1100 Statistics
  • PSY 0036 Research Methods Lecture
  • PSY 0037 Research Methods Lab
  • Preferably including PSY 1215 (health psychology) 
  • Good interpersonal skills 
  • Comfort with computer applications 
  • Highly responsible and dependable individual 
  • A two-term commitment 

Terms offered: Fall, Spring, and Summer

Number of Students: Open