A Conversation with Psi Chi President Dorothy Zhao

November 6, 2023 - Shelly DeJong

Psychology student Dorothy Zhao looks directly at the camera against a white wall. She wears black. Dorothy Zhao, a senior studying Psychology and Neuroscience, is the president of Psi Chi at Michigan State University, the International Honor Society in Psychology that focuses on scholarship and advancing the field of psychology. We reached out to Dorothy to talk about her love for research, her goals as Psi Chi president, and her advice for new psychology students.  


What led you to psychology and neuroscience?  

Coming into MSU, I wasn't really sure about what I wanted to do.  I took Psychology in high school, and I thought it was quite interesting. I liked knowing that no matter what career I wanted to go into, psychology is applicable in every single career path. I got involved with research my first semester and I fell in love with behavioral neuroscience research, which is the intersection between psychology and neuroscience.  

I worked with Dr. Alex Johnson's lab where I investigated neuro peptides and their influence on decision making and learning. It was a great introduction to research because everyone in the lab was super supportive. I really loved the environment and the work that I was doing. After that I added a neuroscience major! 


Can you share more about your goals for the future? 

The summer after my freshman year, I participated in the Foundations of Neuroscience study abroad, where we examined the past, present, and future of neuroscience. There, I was exposed to neurostimulation, which has been my focus ever since. After graduation, I hope to attend graduate school and research applications of neurostimulation for psychiatric disorders.  


How do you get involved in Psi Chi?   

I saw the Psi Chi table at Sparticipation my first semester and I thought it would be a great opportunity to get involved with other students who are interested in psychology. As I mentioned earlier, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do career wise, so I was also interested in learning more about the field of psychology to see if anything resonated with me.  I got pretty close with a lot of the members, including some of the members on the e-board, which is how I was able to develop my role in Psi Chi. I really love it—especially the community that it brings. 

I also loved hearing from the different speakers every week, including professors who taught classes that I was curious about but didn’t have time in my schedule to take class with. They’d come in and give a debrief on the classes that they were teaching and about their research labs. I also found myself choosing classes based on the professors that came in and talked to us.  


What are some of your goals for this year as the president? 

I'm hoping to expand our community involvement by inviting speakers from local organizations so that members of Psi Chi can get introduced to not only internships and volunteer opportunities, but even job opportunities after graduation. There are so many amazing organizations locally that do psychology related work. I also want to build off of Psi Chi’s goals of last year which included connecting with other Psi Chi chapters to see if we could collaborate.  


Do you have any advice you would give new psychology students? 

Try to get involved! Joining a club was really helpful for me. Psi Chi meets every other Mondays from 6:30 to 7:30, and we would love to have you join!  The Psychology Club is also amazing.  Also, make sure to reach out to your professors. Don't be afraid to go to office hours and ask if they know of any opportunities. I’m sure that most professors are very eager to talk about their research!