Nick Wagner, Ph.D. is a graduate of our Developmental Psychology program in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. He is now an Assistant Professor at Boston University and the Director of the Biobehavioral And Social-Emotional (BASE) Laboratory.
As an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Nick teaches graduate and undergraduate students, conducts service at the departmental and university levels, and conducts research with his BASE Lab. He and his lab are interested in examining how early experiences (e.g., parent-child, sibling, and peer relationships) and individual differences in children’s self-regulation contribute to social and emotional development from infant to early adolescence. Nick’s research investigates how these influences shape developmental trajectories of adaptive functioning, including social competence, prosocial and empathic behaviors, and school success, and maladaptive functioning, including aggression, callous-unemotional traits, and anxiety.
Nick graduated with his Ph.D. in 2016 from the Developmental Psychology Program. His primary advisor was Dr. Martha Cox and he worked closely with other faculty members, including Drs. Steve Reznick and Peter Ornstein. Nick shares, “Developmental science is collaborative by nature. Our program trained people to be collaborative and this has paid dividends. I’ve been able to build relationships with researchers across disciplines, something that has contributed to my continued productivity and the expansion of my research program.” The Developmental Psychology program prepared Nick in many ways for his career in academia and, in particular, he credits the program’s emphasis on collaboration, research methods, and theory training. He says, “It’s not possible to overstate the importance of research methods! The foundational training I received at UNC, from Steve, Peter, Martha, and others, as well as through the world-class Quant program, gave me the tools to pursue my research using cutting edge and thoughtful techniques. My expertise in developmental research methods is incredibly useful. In addition, our training in theory is key. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit a wall regarding my research and have gone back to the readings I did in my grad classes to break through. It’s always worked. Our training in developmental science theory has provided me a ‘secure base’ to which I’ve always returned.”
Graduate training at Carolina prepared Nick “in every way possible” for his current position at Boston University. In addition to receiving a great foundation for his current career, Nick enjoyed the community here at UNC. “There was a very strong and supportive community of senior scholars from UNC and other universities in the area,” Nick explains. “There were many opportunities for psychology students and early-career researchers to learn directly from giants in the field. Second, the network of graduate students and postdocs was very strong – I enjoyed working with and learning from my colleagues.”
If you are considering Ph.D. programs, or if you are a current doctoral student, Nick advises: “Be open with your ideas, data, and expertise. Everyone benefits from the open flow of ideas. Always support your colleagues, as well as the broader community of scholars – because the support of others will be critical to you as you achieve your own goals.”