Student Turns Scholar

A former Foster student’s undergraduate exposure to behavioral research has led to a promising academic career

Mercurio

Katie Mercurio

Serving as an experimental subject in the Foster Behavioral Lab may not be the highlight of every undergrad’s experience. But Mark Forehand, a professor of marketing at the Foster School and architect of the lab, believes it’s appropriate for students to contribute to the research mission of the University of Washington.

“It’s great to have subjects to run our experiments on,” he says. “But it’s also important to expose students to the process of research.”

And every so often, it clicks with someone.

Like Katie Mercurio (BA 2004, MS 2006, PhD 2010). One of the earliest students conscripted into behavioral studies in the old Balmer lab, she found herself subject to a particularly fascinating experiment on the effect of celebrity voiceovers on consumer brand attitudes.

The experience inspired her to seek a research apprenticeship with the study’s principal investigator—Forehand. Mercurio began analyzing data and eventually started running some experiments. While continuing studies in the Foster PhD Program she ran the entire Balmer Lab during construction of its new home just next door.

“I was involved in the Behavioral Lab almost from its start,” she says. “And there has been a huge evolution terms of students participating and the number of studies. It just keeps growing.”

After Foster, Mercurio did a post-doc stint at UCLA before becoming an assistant professor at the University of Oregon. She teaches the voiceover study in one of her courses. Her research specialty is in social identity, a topic she first studied as an undergrad. And, like a growing diaspora of Foster grads, she runs a behavioral lab at her current business school.

She notes that the Foster Behavioral Lab is a two-way force. Its graduates disseminate knowledge and expertise to other universities while scholars trained elsewhere gravitate here to work in it.

“To get the best faculty you have to have the best facilities. And you have the best facilities here,” Mercurio says. “You are attracting the best talent in behavioral research because of that lab.”

Read more about the Foster Behavioral Lab.