This is a content holder for the one button emergency notification system.

Trying to Balance the Scales

Award-winning psychology student researches controversial court procedure 

As a child, Alex Ray, ’25, had a bad experience within the family law court system that inspired him to pursue a career focusing on psychology and law.

“It’s a long story, but as a kid I had an adverse experience...It was then that I realized that I wanted to learn more about the law,” he said. “Ultimately, I want to help people and be in a position where I can advocate for others. I want to better understand the social sciences and how they can affect the law and can change the law.”

The Bridgewater State University psychology major was recently awarded a national research award from the American Psychology-Law Society to help achieve his goals.

According to his mentor, psychology Professor Nesa Wasarhaley, the award is for the Access Path to Psychology and Law Experience Program, which provides financial support to students from groups currently underrepresented in the field of psychology and law.

As a first-generation student who identifies as Hispanic, Ray was an appropriate candidate to apply.

“Alex is motivated, high-achieving, and immensely passionate,” Wasarhaley said.

She encouraged him to apply for the award after mentoring him.

“He was doing everything he could think of to gain experiences that would bring him closer to achieving his career goals, but as a first-generation college student, he hadn’t received clear guidance in mapping out a cohesive path to graduate school in psychology.”

When he learned he was selected to receive the national research award, Alex was excited.

“I was so happy, I worked really hard on putting together the application. I wasn’t sure I would get it, so it’s been an amazing feeling,” he said.

Alex will put the funding toward his research, which examines hypothetical outcomes for defendants who opt to “affirm” versus “giving an oath” during testimony in court.  This is often done because of religious reasons.

“There hasn’t been a lot of research done on this, but those who affirm tend to have less favorable outcomes,” Alex said. “For credibility purposes, I want to know if they are being viewed more or less favorably for verdict outcomes.”

Ultimately, Alex hopes the experience will help him in his quest to earn a PhD in psychology with the dream of becoming a forensic psychologist.

Aside from his research, Alex has also interned at Bridgewater State Hospital, where he completed a 50-hour training in the forensic population that included attending mental health seminars and observing the overall system.

He’s constantly seeking out opportunities to help him reach his goals and looks forward to seeing what new doors he can open.

“There are a lot of things I want to do,” Alex said. “But ultimately I want to advocate for change…to work as a designated forensic scientist and serve in public-sector roles where I can make a difference.”

Do you have a BSU story you'd like to share? Email