Student wins psychology association’s top graduate research award

A Western Carolina University first-year graduate student studying psychology recently received a top honor at the 60th annual meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association, held in Nashville, Tenn.

Joseph W. Melnyk received SEPA’s Graduate Student Research Award for his scholarly paper, which examines mate preferences among males and factors that help determine female attractiveness.

Melnyk’s paper was among three finalists from among hundreds of papers submitted by students from across the Southeast and beyond, with the judges selecting his as the best following presentations by the finalists.

A 2012 graduate of WCU with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, he is the son of Andy and Jane Melnyk of Hickory.

For his project, Melnyk conducted a series of three studies in the area of evolutionary psychology, discovering that when viewing images of females, males tend to be divided into two groups – one that focuses almost exclusively on the face, and another that shows a gaze pattern that includes the face but also with significant gaze time on other body regions, said David McCord, professor of psychology at WCU

“This is the first time that a student from WCU has won the overall best paper award, and it is notable that the other two finalists were from institutions with doctoral programs,” McCord said. “This is a very significant achievement for WCU, one that positively affects the image and visibility of our graduate programs throughout the region.”

For more information about studying psychology at WCU, visit the website