Caitlin Clarke: Psychology

Caitlin Clarke: Psychology

Hailing from Houston, Texas, Caitlin Clarke is a major in psychology and double minor in Spanish and neuroscience, as well as the libero for the varsity women’s volleyball team.

She first became interested in psychology in the spring of her freshman year when she took the First Year Seminar course about neurological disorders, which was taught by Psychology Professor Terry Blumenthal.

“I was just fascinated by the class and it just kind of peaked my interest for psychology,” Clarke said. 

Since then, Clarke has taken more specialized classes, like psychopharmacology, which she has found to be fascinating.

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“One of my favorite things, one of my favorite classes I’ve taken so far, is in psychopharmacology, which is kind of like the study of psychoactive drugs,” Clarke said. “Whenever conversations come about it, I love being able to explain more about things like that. I just feel like I understand people and the world a little bit better with it.”

She has also found time to conduct different types of psychology research, even while managing to devote her time and effort to countless volleyball practices, games and tournaments. 

This past year, she worked as a research assistant in Psychology Professor Wayne Pratt’s lab while helping graduate student Allison Carney to look at different parts of the reward center of the brain and analyze motivation in the brain. 

“What I have appreciated about Caitlin as she has worked in my laboratory has been her enthusiasm and overall joy in learning the nuts and bolts of research, as well as the broader theoretical implications of our work,” Pratt said. “Her work ethic and positivity are inspiring, and I look forward to seeing how her career path unfolds.”

She also spent one summer doing research in a human subjects lab at Rice University while examining stressors and how they affect mental and physical health of individuals. 

“I got kind of a taste of both like a human subject lab, where they actually have participants come in and perform, like not experiments, just like questionnaires and stuff like that,” Clarke said. “And then with the rat lab. So, it was cool getting both of those experiences.”

While excelling in lab and classroom settings, Clarke has also made significant athletic achievements. Her four years spent managing her athletic and academic commitments has led her to become a more disciplined and efficient worker. 

“You learn how to be disciplined and how to really abide by it, and make your own schedule,” Clarke said. “I’m honestly grateful for what it taught me through that, like discipline of managing time and stuff like that.”

In 2019, Clarke was also named the first recipient of the newly established Heather Holmes Tenacity Award for the persistence, passion and leadership that she demonstrated on the court. The award was given in honor of Heather Holmes, a former volleyball coach for the university who recently passed away from breast cancer. 

“That was a really big honor and very humbling, and it was just really cool being able to accept that award,” Clarke said. “I’m glad they could honor Heather in that way.”

With her charisma and positive spirit, she hopes to inspire other student athletes while interning for Athletes in Action (AIA) next year. She sees this as a way to give back to the community, especially since she found a great balance between social life, academics and athletics through her involvement in the Ahuva community, a Christian group of girls at the university.

“I would also like to add how excited I am to come back to Wake [Forest] to do God’s work next year with AIA,” Clarke said. “My faith has grown immensely over my last four years at Wake and I can’t wait to see what more the Lord has in store for me and for so many others on this campus.”

After interning for AIA, Clarke plans to attend graduate school in either psychology or neuroscience and to become a college professor eventually. 

“I’ve been inspired by so many of the professors and can’t wait to imitate their knowledge, kindness and teaching styles someday in my own classroom,” Clarke said. 

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