Todd Watson

I cannot imagine a lab without my undergrad collaborators! I love to watch my students develop into thoughtful, independent investigators.

Associate Professor Todd Watson


Associate Professor


Psychology, Neuroscience

What three words would you use to describe Lewis & Clark?

Immersive, Interdisciplinary, Inventive

Tell us about your summer research.

This summer, my undergrad team and I are exploring how cognitive and personality traits might serve as buffers against the negative psychological effects of the pandemic. Specifically, we’re looking to see if different aspects of cognitive control relate to trait resilience (a tendency to bounce back from negative life events), empathy (the ability to compassionately and accurately infer others’ emotions), and differences in perceived stress levels during the COVID-19 era.

How did you become interested in your research topic? What sort of real-world implications does your research have?

This work relates to some of my long-term research interests, but of course, it really came about as a response to the many difficulties posed by the pandemic itself. These studies are conducted online, which gives us a chance to safely and ethically answer some interesting scientific questions during periods of social distancing. However, as importantly, this research has helped us to reflect on and contextualize our own, personal experiences during a truly historic event.

How are students involved?

Essentially all of my research involves students, and I want my lab crews to have an immersive experience. Students are involved in every aspect of the study, including programming experimental tasks, data collection and management, analysis, and presentation.

What would prospective students find most interesting about this research?

Again, I think this work relates directly to variables that have profoundly affected all of our lives. It’s easy to “see” yourself—and your family and friends—in these studies. Beyond that, some of the more technical aspects (e.g. programming tasks, cleaning and management) of the project are particularly interesting and cool in the context of work where we never actually meet our research participants in person.

What do you enjoy most about collaborating with Lewis & Clark students?

I cannot imagine a lab without my undergrad collaborators! I love to watch my students develop into thoughtful, independent investigators. Even better is when—perhaps years down the road—they check in to let me know all the amazing things they’re doing in their lives after L&C.

How does Lewis & Clark/this summer research experience prepare your students for a career and/or advanced studies after graduation?

Research experience is critically important for graduate training (e.g. PhD programs, medical school). The skills we practice (e.g. data cleaning and analysis, working with research participants) also directly translate to a wide variety of careers and fields. More importantly though, getting research experience is an excellent opportunity to explore your interests and passions and to see what might fit for you at the next step.

What is your favorite place on campus?

It is a gorgeous campus, so I always have a hard time narrowing it down. Hence, here are my top-two.

  1. Favorite place that everyone knows about: The bridge and canyon. I was there today checking out a nest of sapsuckers.
  2. Favorite place that not everyone knows about: There are some fantastic plum trees on the big lawn on the graduate campus. Check them out in the late summer!

Psychology Rogers Summer Science Research