September 22, 2023
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Grad student explores commercial potential of her work

Psychology doctoral student Emma-Clementine O. Welsh Psychology doctoral student Emma-Clementine O. Welsh
Psychology doctoral student Emma-Clementine O. Welsh Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.

A Binghamton graduate student received a nomination in October to apply for the national level of the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps. Doctoral student Emma-Clementine O. Welsh completed the regional program at the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator, which has trained nearly 200 teams to date.

Her research involves understanding how people with psychopathic personality traits obtain “successful outcomes” — such as achieving occupational success (i.e., promotions, awards) or getting away with “bad behavior” (i.e., being unethical or having criminal behaviors).

The I-Corps program provides a month-long intensive course where participants discover the commercial potential behind their research or innovation and what their ideal customer base might be. It is designed for faculty, students, postdocs, researchers and startups with a research project that has real-world applications, a prototype or an early-stage product or technology.

The regional program provides a $3,000 grant to conduct customer interviews and further any prototypes; the national program provides a $50,000 grant.

Welsh’s work is conducted under the guidance of Mark F. Lenzenweger, distinguished professor of psychology, in his laboratory of experimental psychopathology. Together they co-authored “Psychopathy, charisma, and success: A moderation modeling approach to successful psychopathy,” which was recently published in the Journal of Research in Personality.

“Some psychopathic individuals who have been quite successful have been described as charming or charismatic,” Welsh said. “We wanted to know if charisma serves as a protective or moderating factor that allows psychopathic individuals to be more successful. Our most recent project suggests that psychopathic individuals who are highly charismatic are able to get away with ‘bad behavior’ and avoid punishment more often than psychopathic individuals who are less charismatic.”

Before joining the I-Corps program, Welsh thought her research, if used in a screening tool, might attract the interest of law enforcement, human resources and other hiring departments. After holding 20 customer discovery interviews with people from various industries, she found that her first adopters would likely be talent acquisition and recruiting agencies or staff who screen candidates for senior- and executive-level positions for moderate-sized to large organizations.

Anyone involved in personality science, organizational behavioral/industrial psychology or personnel selection and business administration scholars will find Welsh’s research to be instructive and rich with insights, Lenzenweger said.

“I see Emma making notable contributions to our understanding of psychopathy that will influence how many of the leading workers in the area will conceive of this disorder,” he said. “She is an engaged and creative emerging psychological scientist who brings her own ideas to research challenges, and this emphasis on originality makes her a clear standout.”

Welsh, who did her undergraduate work at New York University, says she appreciates how Lenzenweger encourages his graduate students to generate original and creative ideas. “Working with Mark has been absolutely wonderful because he encourages you to pursue your passion,” she said. “He wants his students to build their own program of research.”

Welsh, who grew up in Alpharetta, Ga., is staying open-minded about where her career path may take her.

“My findings through the I-Corps program have shown me that my research has a lot of potential industry applications, so the job I might want may not exist yet. I may need to create it. There is a gap and I can fill it,” she said. “I love both my clinical work and my research, so I hope to be able to continue to do both and merge my interests.”

This story first appeared in Discover-e.

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