Learning how legal psychology applies to clinical settings

Kajal Sachdev

Thanks to a coveted Fulbright award, Kajal Sachdev will work with professionals and researchers in one of the world’s best health care systems as she continues to build the foundation for a career that combines legal psychology and medicine.

Sachdev, a 2018 UIC graduate in biological sciences and psychology, is headed to Maastricht University in the Netherlands, where she will complete a master’s degree in legal psychology during the 2018-19 academic year.

“Because of Fulbright’s support, I am able to travel abroad and expand my cultural awareness, all while completing a master’s degree in something that is very important to me,” she said.

Working with Bette Bottoms, professor of psychology and dean emerita of the Honors College, she conducted undergraduate research on the factors that affect juror decision making in child sexual abuse and animal abuse cases. She participated in the creation of a new social psychology scale as part of her Honors Capstone thesis and contributed to two presentations at the annual American Psychology-Law Society conference.

Sachdev is also this year’s winner of the Donald and Leah Riddle Prize for Outstanding Graduating Senior. The prize, named for a former chancellor and his wife, is among UIC’s top undergraduate honors.

“Kajal is among the most exceptional undergraduates I’ve ever mentored, even among the hundreds I’ve supervised in my lab and thousands I knew as Honors College dean,” Bottoms said.

Sachdev, who was a member of UIC’s Honors College and highly competitive Guaranteed Professional Program Admission in medicine, considers Bottoms her “biggest inspiration” for emphasizing how interests in legal psychology and pediatric medicine can be merged into a meaningful career.

“Medicine is based on the foundational understanding that physicians should serve as their patients’ advocates, and abused children clearly do not have good advocates,” she said. “Having a better understanding of child abuse, and the many pieces involved in appropriately responding to those cases, will allow for future improvements in physician training, and I hope to be one of the individuals involved in making some of those improvements.”

Before leaving for Maastricht in August, she will spend the summer working in Lurie Children’s Hospital’s pediatric injury research lab to begin learning about how legal psychology can be applied to clinical settings.

After the Fulbright, she plans to attend medical school to become a pediatrician.

“I want to continue my research in legal psychology but focus more on clinical applications of this research and how it affects physician training for detection of different types of abuse,” said Sachdev, a 2015 graduate of Richwoods High School in Peoria, Illinois.

While the Fulbright award recognizes individual’s academic achievements, she praises Bottoms and Honors College faculty and staff for their support.

“I did not win this Fulbright on my own and owe a great deal of my success to those individuals, and my family, because they have provided me with so much guidance and support throughout this journey,” Sachdev said.

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