Spotlight on: Christina Rinaldi in the Department of Educational Psychology
The first time Christina Rinaldi took a psychology course, she was hooked.
“At the time, I was still in high school in Quebec,” says Rinaldi. “Nowadays, more people know what psychology is, but back then people weren’t sure. ‘Is this a science? Do we need psychology?’ As I learned the introductory concepts, I was fascinated.”
She decided to enroll at McGill where she studied psychology before completing a master’s in psychology at Concordia with a focus on child studies. Along the way, she volunteered at hospitals and schools where she was exposed to the work child psychologists do.
During her master’s, one course piqued her interest in research when she studied sibling relationships for a class project. Her interest in child outcomes led her to dive deeper into formal research methods.
Rinaldi then completed a professional program at McGill where she continued her research while training to become a registered psychologist.
“Not every psychology student gravitates towards research. It’s a credit to my mentors and being a part of great labs,” says Rinaldi.
“At universities, we’re trained to use reliable research methods that allow us to trust the results. It opened my eyes to how research can make a difference in how we’re improving the lives of children and families. As a psychologist with clinical training, I live in both worlds where our practice is informed by research.”
Rinaldi is currently studying the roles of parents and whether those roles change or stay stable as children grow. She’s also involved in a pan-Canadian partnership on how to bring teams together, how to improve mentoring for children and the role of mentoring in child and youth social outcomes.
“Studying human behaviour is fascinating to me. It applies to everything, like motivation, why we do things and the quality of our relationships. In the past, behavioural science wasn’t taken seriously. Now it’s an entire component of many organizations like Canadian Security Intelligence Service.”
Her role in the Department of Educational Psychology is diverse.
“As an academic, I spend my time teaching classes and interacting with students. I’m also the director of assessment in the clinical services unit that is housed within the Faculty of Education where we see families and do assessments and therapy. We train our master's students there, and I work with the clinical supervisors and set the collaborative vision. I also have research meetings with students in which we discuss new research ideas, proposals, or results of studies.”
Her favourite part of the job is training future science practitioners and working with graduate students. One graduate student, Chelsea Durber, received funding from the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation and supporters of the Lois Hole Hospital for Women through WCHRI for her study examining how arguments with parents can be valuable opportunities for children to learn to manage their emotions. “I love imparting my passion and excitement for child psychology to them. I get great satisfaction working side by side with graduate students as they take on the responsibility of conducting research studies and seeing where they go.”
“My clinical practice work obviously is very rewarding as well, working with colleagues and having a collaborative approach to our day-to-day work is really important. We each feel supported.”
When she’s not at work, the soccer mom of two (one in high school, one in university) has a busy life of family, friends, travel, fitness and walking her black lab named Bungee.
Rinaldi advises aspiring researchers to set goals for their volunteer and summer student experiences.
“There are options out there for getting involved. Have a goal for what you want to get out of your experience beyond just putting it on your CV. Build a relationship with the supervisor. Participate in the meetings that they have, even if there might not be a credit for it. You never know what opportunities might open when you show that you're committed.”
Graduate student Chelsea Durber's study was funded by the generosity of the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation and supporters of the Lois Hole Hospital for Women through the Women and Children's Health Research Institute.