haley johnsonHaley D. Johnson (UAB image)GS: Where are you from?

HDJ: I am from Birmingham, Alabama.

GS: What degree(s) did you receive and when?

HDJ: I received my BS in Psychology from Birmingham Southern College in 2011.

GS: How long have you been at UAB?

HDJ: I am now in my third year here at UAB in the Lifespan Developmental Doctoral Psychology Program.

GS: What is your research?

HDJ: My research is focused on the transportation needs and safety issues of individuals with developmental disabilities.  My current research project focuses specifically on the driving characteristics of adolescents and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

GS: Why did you choose UAB for your graduate studies?

HDJ: Growing up in Birmingham, I always knew that UAB was an outstanding school with well-established and highly respected graduate programs.  It was not until I came in for my interview that I knew that UAB was the place I wanted to be for graduate school.  One of the things I like most about UAB is the collaborative nature of all the different schools and departments.  Although I was coming into the Graduate School as a doctoral psychology student, the possibly of collaboration fosters an environment in which students can be creative and innovative in their research interests and goals.

GS: What awards or honors have you received?

HDJ: I have been so blessed in the past year to have received the Civitan Emerging Scholars Fellowship as well as the Lizette Peterson-Homer Memorial Injury Research Grant.  Both of these awards will be funding my Master's thesis project on the driving characteristics of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

GS: What has been your most rewarding experience at UAB?

HDJ: The most rewarding experience I have had here at UAB has been the experience of designing and running my own research study.  This project has given me the opportunity to take something I think is important and do something about it! Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders need the opportunity to lead independent lives, and being able to drive is a key component to independence.  This study will give us a better understanding of some of the challenges that may be specific to these individuals. 

GS: Who was your greatest influence here at UAB and why?

HDJ: My greatest influence at UAB has to be my mentor, Dr. Despina Stavrinos, hands-down.  She is such an amazing teacher and mentor.  She has given me so many wonderful research opportunities and is always supportive of my goals and research ideas. 

GS: What is your motivation in your academics/research?

HDJ: As is the goal with any research project, my motivation is to translate the findings of the study into a practical ways to help individuals with developmental disabilities.  My motivation is improving quality of life!

GS: What are your plans after graduating and for the future?

HDJ: After getting my Ph.D. here at UAB, I plan to stay in academia and teach at a university.  I would also ideally like a teaching job that allows me to continue my research for people with developmental disabilities.

GS: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

HDJ: Really I just want to thank the Civitan International Research Center as well as the American Psychological Foundation for believing in and supporting my research!

GS: What advice would you offer to other graduate students?

HDJ: Really the only advice I would give other graduate students is just to go for it!  You'll never get a research grant or award that you never apply for. :)