After earning her undergraduate degree in psychology, Tugba Metinyurt dreamed of coming to the United States to study community social psychology, a field that isn’t taught in her native Turkey.

“You can’t change much if you focus only on individuals,” she says.

She applied for a scholarship from Turkey’s Ministry of Education, saying she wanted to learn how to reduce educational inequality for girls and young women. She won the scholarship and came to the United States three years ago.

First, she spent a year at the University of Georgia, studying English. Then she applied to UMass Lowell, drawn to the master’s degree in community social psychology and the new doctoral program in applied psychology and prevention science.

Metinyurt says she loves the hands-on approach of many of her graduate classes, especially those on grant-writing and program evaluation. She’s also found great research opportunities.

“The program here is focused on promoting diversity and empowering marginalized groups,” she says. “I believe in doing research for social good. If it’s not going to benefit anyone, there’s no point in doing it.”

Metinyurt is now a research assistant on a team led by Prof. Meg Bond that is looking at ways to address subtle biases against women and minority faculty in science, technology, engineering and math. The research, Making WAVES — Women Academics Valued and Engaged in STEM — is supported by a five-year, $3.5 million National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant.

Metinyurt says her studies have changed her both professionally and personally.

“Women face substantial challenges in Turkey, as they do around the world. The gender gap is huge, but I didn’t realize it until I moved to the United States because we talk about it more openly here, especially in this program,” she says. “Coming here has changed my life. It taught me to stand up and advocate for my own rights and for those who are underrepresented and systematically oppressed.”