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PURE Award winners 2014: Mallory Frayn

Student's appetite for research examines emotional relationships with food

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 – Mallory Frayn 

Degree sought – Honours BA in Psychology (graduating April 2015)

Research Topic –  “Attentional bias in disordered eating . We are using eye-gaze tracking to determine whether people with disordered eating symptoms differ in their attention to food-related images compared to non-disordered eating populations. We are also utilizing mood induction to determine the effect of emotion on attention.” 

Supervisor – Professor Christopher Sears (Psychology) 

What attracted you to this research project? – “Having attended culinary school prior to university, food is and will always be my passion. However, I wanted something more academic for my long-term career so I switched to psychology, knowing that I want to help people develop healthier relationships with food.” 

Why is this research important? – “Whether it is under-eating or over-eating, many people do not have healthy relationships with food. While diet and exercise are important, I strongly believe that there is largely a mental component to establishing healthier eating habits. Through research like this, we can help to identify why people eat the way they do to help them make positive changes in their lives.” 

What do you hope to achieve with this research? – “By researching people’s attention to food-related images, I hope to be able to pinpoint some of the causes or triggers behind disordered eating so that such factors can be targeted during treatment and more importantly, prevention.” 

What do you love most about your field of study? – “I love that it is very hands on. It’s not a sterile lab environment, working with petri dishes and pipettes, but, rather, you get to work with real people and have a lot of fun doing so! We have an amazing team in Cognition and Emotion, headed up by Dr. Christopher Sears. It is always motivating to be around others who are as engaged and passionate about their work as you are.”