Features, Intern Spotlights

Intern Alum Spotlight: Haley Johnson

Committed to showing the impactful, collaborative work of SMAHRT

By Aleenah Ansari


 If you’ve ever wondered who created the concept for our SMAHRT features blog or provided live Twitter and Instagram updates about our research and upcoming programs, look no further than Haley Johnson, a SMAHRT alumni who served as the SMAHRT Communications Intern for the past year.
Haley is a rising junior majoring in Communications at the University of Washington and completing her Sales Certificate at the Foster School of Business. Amid Haley’s time as a full-time student, she kept the community up-to-date about SMAHRT research, intern projects, recent publications, and events through regular social media updates, written articles, and website posts.

Regardless of the medium, Haley strived to share the impact and contribution of the team’s work while making it fun and interactive for any reader. She noted that her goal with any piece of writing is to educate her readers, and she’s particularly passionate about sharing findings from SMAHRT research.



“As social media and technology changes so does the team. It’s important for the public to understand the implications of this fast growing industry, especially how it impacts adolescents,” Haley said. “Adolescents are our future leaders, and if they can understand how to leverage social media in a positive and healthy way, our society is in good shape for the future.”

Additionally, Haley noted that this research is relevant for adolescents as well as parents, educators, and policymakers that interact with social media and monitor its use. Haley was new to the field of science and research when she began as a SMAHRT intern, but she felt incredibly supported by everyone on the team including the interns, professional staff, and Dr. Moreno as she learned more about the team’s projects and wrote about them.

“Even as a young intern, my ideas were valued and considered, and I had freedom to put my ideas into practice,” Haley said. “The position has been very collaborative, and I loved working with my supervisors and other team members to develop the best solution.”
Through her time as a SMAHRT communications intern, Haley said she broadened her definition of research.
“After working on SMAHRT, I learned how diverse the research world truly is. Professionals from all backgrounds can participate in research,” Haley said. “Even one common passion can unite a group of people to work together.”

Bridging the gap between researchers and the public:
Scientific communication can be particularly challenging, especially when describing research on an outlet like social media that continues to grow. Additionally, research in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics fields often include technical terminology that can be hard to follow. Despite this challenge, Haley was committed to engage readers from all backgrounds and communicate information about the influential social media research occurring at SMAHRT through her writing.
“Communicating science and research is imperative to educate the public on health trends and developments that may affect them or those they love,” Haley said.
In the past, Haley wasn’t the biggest fan of science, and she frequently avoided coursework in this field; however, she identified this unfamiliarity as a strength because she understood the perspective of the average reader who wasn’t familiar with all the technical terminology. With this awareness, she was able to effectively bridge the gap between researchers and the general public.
“Because I knew how difficult those topics were for me to understand, I knew how to take the information and relay it in layman’s terms in order for every member of the public to be able to digest and understand [it],” Haley said.
Additionally, Haley was able to leverage her skill set from her sales background to create engaging and accessible content for the SMAHRT blog and social media.
“Rule of thumb that they teach us in sales: if you cannot explain what you are selling to a six-year -old, you do not know your product well enough,” Haley said. “The same goes for science writing! If you are able to take a study so complex and understand it deep enough to communicate it as simply as possible, you are doing your job right.”

Highlighting intern, staff, and collaborator contributions:
Haley not only strived to not only communicate SMAHRT’s research findings, but also honor the voices and hard work of individuals working on them.
“In order to keep variety in the writing pieces, I also thought it would be fun to explore different aspects of the team aside from the work, such as the people,” Haley said. “This not only shows how SMAHRTies are exceptionally intelligent individuals, but truly illustrates how much growth happens on the team, and how much fun a person can have by working there.”
To achieve this goal, she created the SMAHRT Features Blog , which is a dedicated space to share publications, highlight the work of research interns and partner organizations, and provide context about people’s motivations and interests. The blog regularly features articles about recent publications as well as profiles on current interns, staff, and collaborators.
“I found it important to communicate to the general public how relevant the SMAHRT research is, and the great things our staff [does] on a daily basis,” Haley said. “The blog site was the best way in my eyes to make our work really fun and interactive, and any person from any background could read our blogs and understand what they were saying.”
Haley wrote blog articles that explored every aspect of SMAHRT ranging from coverage of the Summer Scholars program to Research Interns’ projects like Alina Arseniev-Koehler’s exploration of pro-eating disorder socialization on Twitter. During this process, Haley valued the opportunity to collaborate with other SMAHRT members and spotlight their contributions.

“I love the topic of interpersonal communication, and I love connecting with people and building relationships,” Haley said. “This is why I was so passionate about highlighting our staff. I wanted to be able to showcase the great talent and make everyone feel like their work is recognized and appreciated.”

Projecting forward to a career in public relations:
Ultimately, Haley really valued the writing experience, community, and exposure to research she gained through her internship at SMAHRT.
“This position also gave me a newfound confidence in my writing and as a professional. If I can work and write for a research team, truly anything is possible,” Haley said. “I am not longer hesitant to chase after industries in which I have little experience, because I know I will be able to adapt and thrive in any environment I enter.”
Long-term, Haley hopes to pursue a career in the Public Relations industry, potentially in New York if she’s ready to leave the Pacific Northwest at that point. We are so thankful for your contributions to SMAHRT this past year, and we wish you all the best, Haley!

Read about our last intern spotlight on Jesse Rohwer here, and our last Scholar Spotlight on Tommy LaGuardia here.

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