Cameron Pugach ’15 will begin graduate study in forensic psychology this fall at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. A Presidential Scholarship from John Jay will fund Pugach’s study for the entirety of his master’s studies.
In addition to the Presidential Scholarship, the program in forensic psychology at John Jay stood out for Pugach because of its “specific research track and a specific externship track, or a combination of the two, that few other schools do,” he says. “Their faculty is made up of some of the most prominent researchers in the field, so naturally that was a big draw for me.”
Originally a biology major on a pre-med track, Pugach had a long-time interest in psychology, which only increased during the semester he spent in Australia his junior year that started him on the late path toward his future concentration.
“I have always had an interest in therapy. Using personal analysis and the incorporation of leading psychological research to help people work through their own problems has always seemed rewarding to me,” Pugach says. “A large portion of psychology aims to understand what makes us up as people — our cognitions, our emotions, our behaviors, and our interaction with the outside world — through a scientific approach, which had me captivated immediately given my familiarity with the natural sciences already.”
With some “extensive talking and planning” with Associate Professor of Psychology Jamie Bodenlos, Pugach discovered that switching his major to psychology was possible.
Forensic psychology, which applies psychology to the legal system and vice versa, especially attracted Pugach, who has been “interested in learning about the specific traits that engender violence in both criminals and non-criminals,” he says. “Although almost everyone deals with their own inner demons, if you will, but forensic psychology offers the opportunity to either help correct or help put away those people whose problems are leading to deleterious consequences in our society.”
As he prepared to apply to graduate school, Pugach says that “the psychology program and faculty at HWS have been absolutely vital. My ability to find, understand, and analyze the research literature, my ability to think critically, and my writing skills improved immensely due to the faculty in the psychology department.”
“Individual students may show creativity, thoughtfulness, and diligence but is rare to find a student who excels in all three,” says Assistant Professor of Psychology Daniel Graham. “This combination of talents is extremely valuable in the sciences –and beyond. In addition to his academic achievements, Cameron is also an engaged and caring member of the community.”
Graham served as faculty adviser to Pugach’s Summer Science project in 2014, which aimed to understand the stability of aesthetic judgments over time within different age groups. The research Pugach conducted was presented at the Biennial Congress of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics in New York City in August 2014, and will also appear in a manuscript in preparation for submission to the journal Cognition. Pugach continued this work as an independent study in psychology in spring 2015.
“As a researcher and a student, Cameron has shown tremendous dedication and care in his work. I am excited to see where the opportunity of the Presidential Scholarship takes Cameron in the future,” Graham says.
“The psychology faculty (and students) at HWS are the pinnacle of what anyone looks for in an institution — an intelligent group of passionate and motivated people who strive to teach, understand, and further their discipline in an atmosphere that promotes continued possibility, kindness, and success,” says Pugach. “I am extremely lucky to have been a part of that community.”
After completing his master’s at John Jay, Pugach hopes to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.