Blog Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging

Learning new skills

Written by Lucy Yue, BS candidate, Saint Louis University, and participant in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program

Somers Family Hall on WashU’s Danforth Campus where the English Lab is located

As I near the end of the Summer Research ProgramAging and Neurological Diseases Track , I wanted to reflect on the knowledge and skills that I’ve acquired over the past eight weeks. I’m currently a rising sophomore in Saint Louis University’s BS/MD medical scholar program. So, during our academic advising meetings our counselors started to mention gaining research experience. My understanding of research was vague coming into this program; I’ve heard my family, friends, and professors talk about it, but it wasn’t something that was ever a tangible concept for me. So, I started with the goal of exposing myself to see if research would be something that I could consider adding into a part of my career. 

When I first arrived in the Emotion and Relationships lab, the principal investigator, Tammy English, PhD, post-doctoral mentor, Claire Growney, PhD, and graduate student, Judy Kwak, patiently guided me to make sure I was comfortable with the lab setting and research ideas we were looking into. Our lab mainly focused on two projects this year: ECO (Emotion and Cognition in Older Adults) and MCF (Married Couples Follow-up). Being able to run and observe study sessions has allowed me to gain a deeper perspective and further interest in cognitive decline and how that affects the way people regulate emotions. 

To be honest, the first few weeks of the program were stressful, having to learn and familiarize myself with our lab and study protocols, attend seminars twice a week, and prepare myself to run participant sessions for two different studies. However, as time passed, the procedure slowly became more fluid, and I began running participant sessions. I would say one of the biggest things I learned (aside from emotion regulation strategies and the effects of cognitive decline) is how to interact with strangers of all ages, backgrounds, and personalities. I’ve never enjoyed talking on the phone; I’m much more of a texter. But from performing countless recruitment calls and having to talk to strangers in different settings, I’ve become more confident and eloquent in the way I interact with participants. Additionally, from running participant sessions, I’ve learned how to successfully coordinate juggling multiple tasks at once; From having to set up the session, help the participant with tasks that are unclear, and perform post-session procedures, this experience has taught me how to efficiently manage something that may initially seem daunting.

I’m extremely grateful to be able to be a part of Dr. English’s lab and this research program. Interacting with my peers during seminar and listening to speaker talks every week has made the foreign concept of research not so distant anymore. Coming into this, I was looking to simply gain research experience, but I was able to learn skills I didn’t know I needed.