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BYU grad hopes to change the world with human development research

“I truly believe that people have this powerful opportunity to change the world.”

Janna Pickett, a recent BYU graduate, has high hopes for how she wants to be remembered and hopes her research leads her to change the world.

“I want to do things that make a real impact for kids, and through helping those kids I want to help families,” Pickett said. “I’m driven by knowing that there are simple things that we can do that will help so many people.”

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As a human development major, Pickett’s favorite part about her program is the opportunity to work with professors and mentors. She took her very first human development class from Julie Haupt, who passed away earlier this year, and her lasting influence was a big reason Pickett decided to continue in the field.

“BYU has been a place where I can take my questions to pretty much anyone,” she said. “And we just talk and discuss. It's been a safe space to explore things and to express my opinions. I've been lucky to have some strong women mentors who have inspired me to continue my passion. Last week, one of my professors who had just had a baby swaddled the baby to her chest and came and taught class!”

Pickett came to BYU because of a family legacy. She and her sisters have spent time together bonding on campus, and her parents engrained in her the importance of getting an education.

“Educational settings are where I thrive,” she said. “Education is a powerful tool for a lot of people, and I’ve tried to figure out ways I can use my education to help other people get an education of their own.”

While on campus, Pickett worked in three labs, helping with three different research studies one following recently married couples through their life change, one on how parental favoritism affects a child and one on infant social behavior.

While working on the parental favoritism study, Pickett had what she described as her most memorable experience while at BYU.

“That study was a meta-analysis, which basically means we would spend a lot of time reading articles and then coding those articles, which is pretty menial work,” she said. “One night, the other research assistants and I decided that we were just going to pull an all-nighter to finish coding one of the data sets we had. That was a moment when I thought, I could see myself doing this forever.”

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Pickett also enjoys doing photography, reading and traveling when she finds the time. In general, she has enjoyed the extra flexibility that came during the COVID-19 pandemic. After her graduation, she will be pursuing a Ph.D..

Pickett believes continuing her education can help her change the world. There are so many things an individual can do that will help people. By getting her Ph.D., she believes she can give a voice to those hoping to get their own education.

“Getting a Ph.D. is just the natural next step for me in terms of living a lifestyle of learning,” she said. “I just want to know as much as I can about as much as I can.”

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