Masha Melnik, Psychology Major & 2013 Outstanding Student Award Winner

Please see the article in Humboldt|NOW about Masha and her 2013 Outstanding Student Award by selecting this link.

Many Humboldt State students go hiking, play music or go to the movies on a Saturday night. But for Masha Melnik, the American Sign Language Social is the place to be.

The 22-year-old undergraduate — a double major in psychology and cellular molecular biology and a minor in chemistry — attends the event weekly. The informal social provides an immersive atmosphere in which anyone deaf, hard of hearing or simply interested in sign language can hone his or her skills.

But Sign Language is just one of Melnik's interests. Her true calling is research.

Although Melnik's has always been interested in the field, her high school advanced placement psychology course solidified her passion and further spurred her interest in how people think before she ever set foot on the HSU campus.

After graduating from high school in San Diego and visiting HSU for the first time — where the surrounding community drew her in — she moved to the North Coast in 2008 to pursue a degree in psychology, picking up her biology major and chemistry minor her sophomore year at the university.

"I study psychology so I can better understand how people think and behave, biology to understand how the mind and the body work and chemistry to learn how the body works chemically," Melnik said. "It's all interconnected."

Whether she is researching the factors that influence forgiveness alongside psychology department Chair Gregg Gold, working as a teaching assistant in American Sign Language, or presenting research at the Western Psychological Association conference, Melnik has her hands full.

Her lack of procrastination, ample to-do lists and phone and calendar alerts keep her on task throughout the day.

She is also a member of Psi Chi — the International Honor Society in Psychology — and taught the supplemental course for Genetics in the fall of 2013. During the past two years, she has served as a lab coordinator and conducted various research within the psychology and biology departments.

Following graduation, Melnik hopes to pursue a PhD at the University of California San Diego and go on to be a professor to share her passion with students and continue conducting research.

Although her academic career seems far from over, Melnik recognizes that HSU provided her with the research opportunities and hands-on experience she might not have access to otherwise. The small, intimate class sizes and tight-knit labs allow her to get to know and easily approach her professors, both in the classroom and outside of it.

"The opportunities are endless because HSU is so small — it lets me work in a lot of labs," Melnik said. "I constantly work with the same people. Several professors have told me how much I've grown — something you just don't get at large universities. They don't track your progress."