Research in Switzerland

Meet Gabrielle Pfund. She is a 4th year PhD student in Dr. Pat Hill’s Purpose, Aging, Transitions, and Health (PATH) lab. Her research focuses on three main goals revolving around sense of purpose, a construct defined as the extent to which one perceives their life to having personally meaningful goals: understanding how sense of purpose varies throughout the lifespan, the transactional relationship between sense of purpose and social connections, and determining how sense of purpose can be used to predict behaviors and outcomes. Additionally, Gabrielle hopes to eventually create interventions that can help individuals maintain or increase on sense of purpose.

She applied to and was awarded the ThinkSwiss Scholarship, which allowed her to study abroad at the University of Zurich under the supervision of Dr. Mathias Allemand during for three months from August through October of 2021. Dr. Mathias Allemand’s research involves understanding personality dynamics to create personality-informed interventions. Pfund specifically sought to collaborate with Dr. Allemand with the hopes of learning interventional methods and later applying these approaches to a sense of purpose. Some of her work with Dr. Allemand includes social support and personality, and how these change throughout the lifespan.

During her time abroad, Gabrielle spent her time exploring cities throughout Switzerland as well as surrounding countries, including Germany and the Netherlands. She went sightseeing and went to local art museums. In the midst of the pandemic, Gabrielle’s greatest challenge there was meeting new people; luckily, she reconnected with a previous PATH lab visiting scholar, and they explored Brussels and Leuven in Belgium together. Additionally, towards the end of her trip, Gabrielle met a graduate student in the ThinkSwiss Scholarship program and developed a friendship with her.

Pfund’s amazing experience has allowed her to grow both personally and professionally:

She highly encourages students to apply for and take part in the ThinkSwiss Scholarship, and hopes that others will have just as an awesome experience as she did! If you have questions about the application, feel free to reach out to her at

R Workshops in Brazil

Meet Shelly Cooper (Cognitive Control & Psychopathology Lab) and Leah Schultz (Personality Measurement and Development Lab), who recently made a return visit to Porto Alegre, Brazil, to lead an R workshop!

Their first trip, in October 2016, came about after Shelly befriended a visiting student from Brazil named Letícia Czepielewski. Upon returning to Brazil, Letícia worked with her university (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul) to invite Shelly and Leah to lead an R workshop. The workshop was such a success that Shelly and Leah were invited back to lead two back-to-back workshops in July and August of 2019.

“All the people attending the workshops were just remarkably kind and generous. They were so excited to show us around their city, and they were really excited to more about how R could help them. Leah even got a round of applause when she showed how to easily make a correlation table.” -Shelly

Exploring Brazil

During their 2016 trip, Shelly and Leah also traveled to Iguazu Falls, the largest waterfall system in the world. In between teaching the two workshops during their 2019 trip, they traveled to Rio. On both trips they went to soccer games and supported the local team, Grêmio.

“The food is amazing. The drinks are amazing. It was really rainy, but still incredible. The street art was amazing, and it was just a really fun city to walk around and hang out.” – Shelly

Looking forward

Shelly recently defended her dissertation (congrats!) and Leah is slated to defend in Spring of 2020. They both are pursuing teaching careers in the St. Louis area. Leah will be starting at St. Louis University this semester, and Shelly will be continuing at Washington University and University College.