Blog Behavioral/ Mental Health

A different research experience

Written by Lauren Klein, Notre Dame University and participant in the 2019 Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program – Public & Global Health Track

As I approach the halfway point of the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program – Public and Global Health Track, I realize how much it has already influenced me personally and professionally. A biology major with cancer research experience and interests in society, psychology, and policy, I wanted to investigate a different type of research which would potentially meld these interests. This is why, through this program, I chose to work in Dr. Ryan Bogdan’s lab.

This has been a different research experience for me. Because the research involves statistics and a good knowledge base of the project and the research context in which it is situated, much of the research has been on a computer. While I perform assays that measure cortisol levels once per week, much of my other work is less structured; therefore, I have needed to adapt to a new kind of research setting. I have also needed to complete the tasks my mentor assigns while also working independently to better understand my research.

The Psychology building on the Danforth Campus where the author conducts research.
The Psychology building on the Danforth Campus where the author conducts research.

The type of research my lab conducts fascinates me. My project involves the intergenerational transmission of child maltreatment and how this is mediated by both inflammation (a biological component) and borderline personality disorder (a psychological component). Therefore, I have enjoyed seeing how both biological, psychological, and social factors interact to influence the transmission of childhood maltreatment.

I have discovered that I am interested in public health as a way of learning about and influencing society; therefore, beyond this program and in lieu of strict biology research, I will likely pursue public health research. I have gained additional direction on my career path: I have gained knowledge, intrigue, and questions about the area of research my mentor is working in. And I have become better able to work effectively in a different type of research setting.

Beyond my research, the seminars have interested and informed me. The topic diversity has exposed me to a broad spectrum of public health issues and ideas. I have also learned a lot about St. Louis. A native of a suburb and a student at a school that is somewhat isolated from the nearest city, living in St. Louis has been a new but enjoyable experience for me. The seminars have especially emphasized race in the city. Considering my background and where I live now, my experiences with the Summer Research Program have given me a better perspective on the more socially-influenced aspects of my research.

I have so enjoyed getting to know my fellow program researchers, as well. Everyone has a unique background, and hearing about their research, experiences, and ideas has been amazing. Exploring the city and spending time with them has been a lot of fun.

Overall, I am very grateful for the experience I have already had with this program, and I intend to make the most of the second half, which will no doubt teach me as much if not more than the first!