Psychology Dean's Medalist setting her own path to health care career

By

Robert Ewing

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

Jasmin Ray, the 2021 Dean’s Medalist for the ASU Department of Psychology, is graduating with a major in psychology and a minor in biology and plans on going into graduate school to become a physician assistant with an emphasis in child behavioral studies. 

Ray is personally interested in how intergenerational trauma from war or poverty can impact the lives of children through indirect parenting practices. Her family escaped from the Cambodian genocide and built a life for Ray in the United States, however, she had to figure out much of the college experience for herself, such as applying, gaining research experience and finding her path to graduation. 

“I’m just interested in learning how the families of people who survive trauma, such as the Cambodian genocide or the Armenian genocide are impacted by those events, both in the short and the longer term. While those people are struggling with their own mental health, they are raising their families in spite of that,” said Ray. 

While Ray won’t personally tell you how incredible she is, it was apparent from the very beginning of her time as an undergraduate research assistant in the Arizona Twin Project that she is special. 

“Jasmin has been a trailblazer for her peers and her family," said Leah Doane, associate professor of psychology and area head of the Developmental Psychology PhD program. Doane is also the co-principal investigator of the Arizona Twin Project. "Jasmin is a first-generation college student and a child of Cambodian refugees. Her high levels of tenacity, intelligence and commitment to the well-being of others echo ASU’s missions of inclusion, discovery and responsibility to the communities we serve.” 

Ray is part of the behavioral coding team on the project and helps to transcode data for the longitudinal study. She is particularly curious about the idea of nature versus nurture and how genetics plays in the long-term outcomes of the twins. 

The Twin Project features research by three female faculty leads: Doane, Associate Chair Mary Davis and Professor Kathryn Lemery-Chalfant. 

“It has been so inspiring to see a female-dominated lab where everyone is so inclusive," said Ray. "They made such an outright effort to be inclusive towards their RAs — during the summer during the period of unrest (political and social), they really took the time to make it known that all of their RAs were accepted. It was so amazing to see these three different women come together to make such a huge study and organized group of people. I think as women, we owe it to other women to go into these fields. These female experiences shape how we approach research, study medicine. Having diverse perspectives and bringing forth experiences is super important, especially in health care.”

Ray conducted her honors thesis on research data from the project as well, examining the relationship between the importance of culture and parenting practices on children’s health and adjustment.

“Her thesis examined whether parents’ traditional or mainstream cultural values or qualities of parenting, i.e., warmth, authoritarianism, were associated with children’s diurnal cortisol patterns and whether such associations were different for majority, i.e., European American, as opposed to minority, i.e., Latinx, families,” said Doane. 

While her experience at ASU featured extensive time in the research lab, Ray also found time to work in a neurorehabilitation unit for traumatic brain injury, and as a patient care technician at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. She also served as a teaching assistant within the Department of Psychology, mentoring and tutoring other undergraduate students. 

Immediately after graduation, she is taking a gap year to get patient experience while working at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. She then plans on applying to PA school, with an emphasis in child behavioral studies. 

Video of Jasmin Ray - Dean's Medalist