Written by Ella Kinder, BS candidate at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and participant in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program
My time in the Summer Research Program – Aging and Neurological Diseases Track has been informative and immersive so far. I have been partnered with the Performance, Environment, and Participation Lab in Occupational Therapy. The principal investigator at this lab is Susy Stark, PhD, and I have been working with our post-doctoral mentor, Szu-Wei Chen, PhD. Being in this lab has been especially great because I am able to work with a couple of fellow students in the Summer Research Program, Grace and Cameron.
One of my main goals coming into this program was being able to learn about the research process and to be able to understand the different areas of a research project, especially the lingo used in manuscripts and the lab. As an instructor, Chen has been able to assist in this area immensely. We are given a schedule for each day in the lab and many days include links for different PowerPoint slides and articles that explain various topics from “how to write a manuscript” to “choosing a statistical test.” Coming into the lab each morning, I first check the schedule and read whatever materials are assigned for that day. Then, we’re asked if we have questions on anything and discuss the topics further. These tools have provided me with a great starting point coming in as a new student researcher.
The Stark Lab, as it is often referred to, has many projects going on currently, and I have been able to work a little bit on a couple of them. The main project I have been working on is the Falls and AD project. This project is a cohort study that includes participants with and without preclinical Alzheimer Disease (AD). The study involves recording how many falls a participant has each month and information about these falls for four years. Additionally, home visits are conducted yearly which include testing balance, cognition, an evaluation of fall hazards at the home, and more. The ultimate goal of the project is to determine if declining functional mobility and falls are preclinical markers of AD. Working on this study, I have been able to observe a home visit with the study coordinator Rebecca Bollinger, OTD. I have also had the opportunity to review data from the project, which is now in its fourth year, to use in my own presentation and manuscript.
While the majority of my time in this research program has been spent in the lab, I have also had great experiences outside of the lab in our seminars on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. We have had lectures from several amazing doctors and professors like our Intro to Alzheimer Disease and Intro to Stroke lectures from Justin Long, MD, PhD and Jordan Amar, MD. I have also been able to connect with some of the other students in the program and have had insightful discussions with them. Ms. Natalie Galucia, MSW, and Brian Carpenter, PhD, have structured a great summer full of information and activities for us. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and excited to see what the rest of the summer holds.