Thompson Named to the 2020 Cohort of Ronald E. McNair Scholars

Thursday, July 2, 2020

ORANGEBURG, S.C. – Reginald Thompson, a junior psychology major, is spending his summer integrating his love of technology and psychology as a member of the 2020 Ronald E. McNair Scholars. The Orangeburg native is among the collegiate scholars participating in the statewide Ronald E. McNair Scholars program, which is designed to enhance research experience, offer faculty mentoring and prepare students for graduate school and Ph.D. programs.

While completing the mechatronics technology program at Orangeburg Calhoun Technical College, he discovered that he wanted to pursue his passion for helping others. After writing an English paper on schizophrenia, Thompson decided to continue his education at SC State University and major in psychology.

“Although I enjoyed working with machines, I missed human interaction. After writing that English paper and having a family member who suffered from schizophrenia, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in psychology,” Thompson said.

Encouraged to apply for the McNair Scholars Program by his professors in SC State’s Department of Social Sciences, Thompson submitted a thesis aimed at exploring the use of virtual reality technology as possible treatment options for individuals with psychological illnesses.

As he continues to conduct his research, Thompson’s thesis topic now focuses on virtual reality exposure therapy as a treatment for veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD).

“While pharmaceuticals methods and regular therapy are viable options in 2020, I am hoping that veterans who suffer from PTSD will participate in safe, controlled virtual reality simulations to confront and heal from trauma,” Thompson continued.

Housed at the University of South Carolina, the Ronald McNair Program is open to all eligible South Carolina undergraduates during the summer. The program provides students with a stipend, assistance with research, writing, presentation skills and offers personal mentorship to each fellow.

Initially, Thompson looked forward to engaging face-to-face with other scholars in the program and interviewing veterans about his research, but he has found virtual methods helpful due to the social distancing guidelines and the coronavirus.

“My research has been impacted by social distancing and the coronavirus. I was excited to stay on campus, meet new students, and I planned to speak with veterans about their opinions on the treatment options, but I’ve had to conduct everything online,” he said.

“This wasn’t how I thought the summer would be, but I’m honored that I was selected to be a part of the McNair Scholars Program and explore my love for technology, helping people and psychology,” Thompson said.

Thompson is actively involved on campus as a member of Psy Chi International Honors Society, Psychology Association and Health Professions Association.