University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

PURE Award winners 2014: Erin Shumlich

Student seeks to deliver verdict on which psychological factors influences jurors

Committed to a goal of research excellence with its bold Eyes High strategy, one of the University of Calgary’s most important initiatives is the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience, better known as PURE. 

Each year undergraduates can apply for the prestigious PURE Awards, which provide financial research support to some of the university’s most promising students over the Spring and Summer months. 

The program is designed to give undergraduate students the opportunity to learn how to develop research projects, undertake independent research and contribute to knowledge in their respective fields. 

In this Q&A series we will meet the PURE Award winners from the Faculty of Arts. Good luck to each of them in their research pursuits! 


Name – Erin Shumlich 

Degree sought – Double degree in English and Psychology (graduated April 2014)

Research Topic –  “My research looks at how extralegal factors, like race and gender, influence juror decisions.” 

Supervisor – Dr. Melissa Boyce (Psychology) 

What attracted you to this research project? – “I’ve always been interested in the criminal justice system. The Innocence Project, which looks at wrongfully convicted individuals, has made me question how extralegal factors influence trial decisions. There is extreme overrepresentation of Aboriginal Canadians in the Canadian criminal justice system and I was interested in looking at the underlying factors of this overrepresentation. ” 

Why is this research important? – “To ensure that everyone receives due process under the law, we need to have a better understanding of the underlying causes of overrepresentation of ethnic minorities in the prison system. The proposed study will help researchers better understand juror decision-making processes as a function of crime congruence.” 

What do you hope to achieve with this research? – “The findings of this study may be used to support the inclusion of relevant expert testimony or jury instructions in Canadian courtrooms. Given Canada’s tumultuous history with Aboriginal Canadians, this is a vitally important issue. My proposed research should facilitate policy changes that will create a more equitable society for all Canadians.” 

What do you love most about your field of study? – “I love constantly being challenged through research. I really believe that research has the power to influence positive social and policy change, which I want to continue working towards. I’m also excited about the opportunities I’ve had through my research to attend conferences and am looking forward to continuing work in forensics when I start graduate school in clinical psychology this fall.”