Sydney Luna

Sydney was born and raised right here in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She will be graduating this may with her Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology. Not only is she a full time student but a full time wife and mother. She is also the current secretary for The International Honors Society in Psychology, where she does volunteer work. Currently, she is testing memorization skills in participants taking part in search and rescue tasks. After she graduates, she plans to attend either a school or family/marriage Psychology PhD program. Her main goal is to work with at risk youths as well as military personnel. During her spare time she enjoys hanging out with her family, traveling, and reading.


Project Description:

Experts have recently estimated the total number of people who have gone missing on public lands to be approximately 1600. Accurate memory for information pertaining to one’s search behavior can be critical to a search and rescue (SAR) responder’s performance in the field. For instance, a SAR responder may need to remember where s/he has (or has not yet) searched, what they have encountered, where they should be looking (and how), what specifically they need to find, and how thorough they were when examining a given area. Thus, working- and long-term memory demands on SAR responders are high, and accurate encoding of relevant information may aid in finding someone who has gotten lost. This project will involve having participants performing a simulated SAR “clue finding” task in open terrain. Participants will search for a variety of hidden objects over a period of 40 minutes. Afterwards, they will have their memory probed using a variety of survey and recognition memory questions to examine how well they recall details of their search pattern and performance. Our goal will be to establish a link between memory performance and search performance, should one exist.



  • Project description, timeline, and milestones developed with mentor; on file with DSP
  • Complete half of project milestones
  • Complete project
  • Attend a professional conference (without presenting)
  • Take the GRE
  • Promote #DiscoveryScholars ten times on social media
  • Apply for graduate or professional school


Sydney’s mentor: Dr. Michael C. Hout:

Michael C. Hout grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and attended the University of Pittsburgh for his bachelor’s degree before moving to Tempe, Arizona to get a master’s and PhD at Arizona State University.  He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at New Mexico State University, and an Associate Editor at the journal Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics. His research focuses primarily on visual cognition (including visual search, attention, eye movements, and memory) and the development of alternative methods of collecting similarity data for use in multi-dimensional scaling. He has won several awards for research and teaching, including the Rising Star award from the Association for Psychological Science, and currently engages in outside consulting for organizations such as Major League Baseball. In his limited free time, he enjoys walking his dogs, hiking, playing hockey, and riding his motorcycle.