Blog Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging

Exploring a human-centric field in our remote society

By Kyla Kikkawa, B.A. Candidate, Washington University in St. Louis
Participant, Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program, Aging and Neurological Diseases Track

As we concluded our virtual program, each of us were shown versions of our “older selves” created by a digital application, which would have been printed on our name placards had we been in person. Completing our four weeks of material on research in the field of aging, this ending activity was relevant and most importantly, optimistic, which is exactly how we must remain in this time.

From when we first read the Belmont Report, which is a document that outlines ethical principles and guidelines for research involving human subjects, to when we were introduced to assessments for older adults, we delved into a human-centric field during this seemingly isolated and disconnected time. My own notions of the boundaries of research were challenged, and I began to see the endless and powerful potential in the field of research. If I learned anything from this program, it was the power, sincerity, and connectivity of psychological research. Exemplifying the large scope of research in the field of aging, Brian Carpenter, PhD, shared with us methods in which he is currently collecting data virtually with hopes of understanding the effects of COVID-19 on older adults’ experience. Additionally, Alex Wong, PhD, DPhil, presented the aims for multiple projects in his Cognitive Rehabilitation Laboratory, which consisted of the use of mobile technology to understand the individual and variable process of neuro-recovery in people with ischemic strokes.

As I became more intrigued by the research processes throughout the course of our program, I was constantly reminded by how passionate, curious, and generous people are. Speakers were so eager to display their work and help us in our journeys, including Dr. Albert (Gus) Davis, MD, PhD, who strives to understand the mechanisms of protein aggregation and neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease. While I initially reached out to talk more about his research, which piqued my own interest in Parkinson’s Disease as a result of my grandmother’s diagnosis, he ended up giving me wonderful recommendations for neurology in literature. Graduate students Emorie Beck and Madelyn Frumkin graciously displayed some of their own projects and directed us to a host of resources to continue our progress after our three week introduction to R. Aside from our lecturers, I also was uplifted and inspired by the distinct passions and ambition of the nine other students in my cohort. Although I wish I had the pleasure of getting to know them in person, I was still inspired by my fellow cohort members, and I look forward to the day when I can meet them in person.

Although a virtual experience was not what I had anticipated when I was accepted in March, I still greatly appreciated the opportunity to participate in this program, which expanded my own horizons about the endless possibilities in the field of research in aging and neurological diseases as well as connected me with others during the remoteness of our current society.

This post is part of the Summer Research Program blog series at the Institute for Public Health. Subscribe to email updates or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.