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Aijia Yao

Aijia Yao 

Undergraduate College/University:  Stony Brook University

Major (Minor):    Psychology (Japanese Studies)

Graduation Year:    2020


Hi! My name is Aijia, and I’m from Guangzhou, China. I recently graduated from SBU, so this is my fifth year here!

Five years ago, as a Freshman, I came to Stony Brook with a passion for learning more about psychopathology. During my sophomore year, I had worked closely with the population with psychotic symptoms for almost a year as a research assistant in Dr. Roman Kotov’s lab. In this process, I first knew about the Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP). This dimensional psychopathology model challenged my definition of mental illness and eventually inspired me to think about how to better support people with internalizing symptoms.

Meanwhile, I started working at Dr. Stacey Scott’s Stress, Emotions, and Health Lab. My main tasks were to develop a survey measuring people’s mistrust toward health providers and complete a codebook for various cognitive tasks. Also, I received an abundance of training in finding measurements and variables, reviewing literature, and presenting our study result to the community. While learning more in the lab, I gradually discovered my interest in developing intervention and bridging the gap between research, clinical practice, and the general public.

Moreover, during the summer break, I worked at a private counseling clinic in my hometown, Guangzhou, to shadow psychodynamic therapy and summarize progress notes. However, I noticed that most people who have received services dropped out after one session. What caused this phenomenon? Bringing this question back to Stony Brook, I took a class on psychotherapy and actively searched for talks and literature. My conclusion is, people quit for various reasons: financial difficulty, transportation, failure in developing a trust relationship with their therapist, etc. We can’t solve those problems for people. But we can optimize the treatment outcome by delivering evidence-based, accessible, and brief interventions targeting symptoms rather than diagnosis. Thus, I joined the Lab for Scalable Mental Health in my senior year, and continue working with my lab director, Dr. Jessica Schleider, after being admitted to the MA program. In the future, I hope to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. My ultimate goal is to develop community-level interventions targeting internalizing symptoms in adolescents or young adults.

As the founder of the Psychology Peer Mentoring Program, I currently work as the Program Coordinator to assist incoming Psychology students under the supervision of Dr. Hoi-Chung Leung. I also work as a MA intern at the Krasner Psychological Center (KPC). Outside of school, I have been volunteering as a Crisis Counselor in Response Crisis Center, a 24/7 crisis hotline providing support to thousands of people in Suffolk County. Over my undergraduate years, I had volunteered at Stony Brook Day-care Center, Student Accessibility Support Center (SASC), and Stony Brook Hospital.

In my leisure, I love singing and food. I have my own food map for Stony Brook and NYC and decide to update it soon due to COVID. If you have any recommended places, please let me know :)