Stress is a set of physical and mental states accompanied by specific physiological responses. The psychophysiological activation of stress centers around the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, a group of structures that help the body cope with stress. Cortisol is the principle glucocorticoid secreted by the adrenal cortex and is known as a stress hormone. Cortisol allows the body to stay on high alert during the stress response and recording changes in cortisol can be useful in a variety of research studies. This thesis focused on the utility and pitfalls of cortisol testing and research design. Cortisol can be testing through blood, hair, and saliva, with saliva being considered among the most viable methods due to its versatility. I learned how to use a salivary cortisol ELISA assay kit and used different technologies such as single-channel and multi-channel pipettes, centrifuge, orbital shaker, and the Epoch 2 Microplate Spectrophotometer. I coordinated with my mentor, Dr. Adam Lawson, and Dr. Bradley Kraemer and Dr. Lindsay Calderon from the biology department. There were several challenges with testing cortisol, including the time of the procedure, the lack of in-depth instructions, and having to coordinate outside of the psychology lab. Testing cortisol is difficult, but not impossible. Cortisol testing could be used in experiments, but due to the challenges and time it takes to learn the procedure from the beginning, it is advisable to be done in a lab that already tests cortisol regularly.

Semester/Year of Award

Spring 2020


Adam L. Lawson

Mentor Professional Affiliation

Department of Psychology

Access Options

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars



IRB Approval Number (if applicable)