Features, Staff Spotlights

Staff Spotlight: Kole Binger

Kole Binger
Kole Binger

When SMAHRT made the move back to Madison in August 2017 they welcomed a new member to their team. Kole Binger was hired in November 2017 and has been working here at SMAHRT for four months now. Although, she was not part of the original team from Seattle, Kole has become a valuable member of the team.

Kole graduated in May 2017 from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a biology degree. She had research experience during her undergraduate years here in Madison, but her experiences were all over the board. At the end of her senior year, only six months before working for SMAHRT, Kole was working in a transplant lab where they looked at antibody mediated rejection models in regards to the immune system.

For SMAHRT, Kole is an associate research specialist. She is involved in two of the current studies that SMAHRT is working on. R34, the first study, is looking at potential alcohol intervention methods on Facebook. Kole is now identifying participants through Facebook and evaluating if their use of the platform would benefit from an alcohol intervention. Kole is also working on the Marijuana Public Health Study. This study is looking at marijuana advertisements in states where it is legal. More specifically, they are looking at those advertisements in regards to adolescents and how they might interact with these ads on social

In Kole’s time here at SMAHRT she has learned several valuable lessons. When it comes to research, Kole has discovered that it is not a linear process, but an iterative one. “A lot of times when you take a break and come back to your work you see it in an entirely different light”, Kole said. She has also learned how important communication skills are in regards to research. At times, research can involve complicated jargon or ideas and it is easy to misunderstand one another.

When it comes to Kole’s research interests, she has similar interests to SMAHRT’s. She is interested in adolescents and their use of social media because it has become such a central aspect of society. Kole has more of an interest in younger kids and how social media effects their development and social identity.  At SMAHRT, staff and interns are given the opportunity for an independent project. Kole’s research looks at how college students post about alcohol during college football game days.

In the upcoming months, Kole is excited to continue her work on SMAHRT’s current studies. She will also be presenting her independent project research at the Pediatric Academic Society Conference in May 2018.

SMAHRT also has their Summer Research Scholars in July 2018 and Kole is looking forward to connecting with adolescents in the Madison area.

Kole PAS

Kole’s goal is to have her work not only influence and benefit my patients, but also benefit the scientific community. “I want to be like Megan when I grow up”, Kole explained.



Steps of the Research Process

Step 1: Identify Research Topic

Identify research topic

The first step in the research process is to identify which topic you would like to research. One way to jump start this process is by thinking through what interests you. There are so many research topics out there, so find one that really resonates with you.

Step 2: Review the Literature


Step 2 is where you conduct your preliminary research. Before you dive right in to your own research you want to figure out what has already been done on your topic of choice.

Step 3: Develop and Clarify Research Question

develop research question

This step is a more narrow version of Step One. Once you have your topic and a good idea of what others have done, you can refine your research question to try and find an answer that no one else has come across.

Step 4: Develop Data Collection Plan


Once you have a clear idea of your research question, you should start planning out how to get to an answer. Data collection will provide you with the information to eventually come to a conclusion. You need to have a solid idea of what data you need.

Step 5: Collect Data

collect data

Step Five is where you will gather all of your data. In this step, you are not able to come to a conclusion just yet, but you might be able to identify trends with the naked eye.

Step 6: Analyze and Interpret Data

analyze data

This step is where you are able to determine and formulate an answer to your research question, but interpreting all of the data you collected in Step Five.

Step 7: Share Findings


Step Seven is by far the most rewarding step. This is where you get to present your findings to the rest of the world, making an impact on society.



On September 1st, 2017, SMAHRT relocated to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This decision wasn’t an easy one, but the team is so excited to see what our next adventures will be like in the

The whole team was given the opportunity to go be a part of this relocation and in the end, Brad Kerr, Aubrey Gower, and Marina Jenkins decided to be a part of this team. The rest of team all have great endeavors ahead of them in Seattle.

Brad Kerr


Photo May 19, 5 12 18 PM
Marina Jenkins


Photo May 19, 4 56 44 PM
Aubrey Gower





Dr. Megan Moreno, Principal Investigator of SMAHRT (Click image for Dr. Moreno’s Bio)


We took some time to ask Dr. Moreno some questions about this move, to help everyone understand more about this relocation. If you have more lingering after reading this post, feel free to reach out to Dr. Moreno through the new SMAHRT email:

Q: In general, is it often that researchers change institutions like what you and the team are doing?

Dr. Moreno:
Great question! Well, there are several factors that may be a part of the decision for a researcher to transition to a new institution. It is relatively common, more common than you would think, especially in academia, to consider a move. This usually happens when a new institution presents a new opportunity that the current institution cannot offer. These opportunities can include a new leadership role, an improved research environment, improved resources such as research funding or lab space, or security in the form of “hard money”.

Q: Could you clarify what “hard money” is? Is there a “soft money” then?

Dr. Moreno:
Of course! “Hard money” refers to salary that is guaranteed to be paid by the university, regardless of whether your grants are successfully funded. It provides greater security for your job and position. Yes, there is “soft money”. When we use this term, it refers to salary paid for by grants, it is “soft” because it isn’t guaranteed and isn’t permanent. In a “soft money” environment, if you don’t successfully get grants to pay your salary, you may lose some of your salary.

Aerial view of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Campus

Q: That makes sense! So, why did you decide to move SMAHRT?

Dr. Moreno:

Some of the key factors that led us to make this move were the opportunity for new leadership roles. I’ll have the opportunity to serve as the Academic Division Chief for the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine and as the Vice Chair of Digital Health. Brad will also take on a new role as an Education Coordinator within the division. These leadership roles will bring “hard money” – like what we had talked about before – to the team and support the salaries of everyone on the team.

Q: That sounds so exciting! What do those roles entail for you and Brad?

Dr. Moreno:
The role as Academic Division Chief for the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine involves mentoring faculty in that division on their scholarly projects, such as research, chapters, review articles and patient case reports, and fostering collaboration between faculty and trainees. The role as Vice Chair of Digital Health is an exciting opportunity, where we as a team will be able to take some of what we and others have learned about how digital tools can improve patient care, and put new initiatives into place at the American Family Children’s Hospital, as well as within UW Health Clinics.

Brad’s new role will be helping to plan research teaching sessions and coordinating interns who will work with these faculty members.

Click on image to learn more about the research being done at the University of Wisconsin SMPH Department of Pediatrics

Q: What will be some things that SMAHRT team members will be working on?

Dr. Moreno:
SMAHRT will be intricately involved in reviewing literature to identify promising approaches, collaborating with different pediatric specialists and providers, and testing new tools within the hospital and clinics.

Q: What are some things that will be different for the team because of this move?

Dr. Moreno:
Well, to start, the physical location of the SMAHRT offices will be different. We will have a suite of offices in the General Pediatrics office area, including a large team room for our staff and interns. We will be close to the UW-Madison university campus. Our emails will be different. So from here on out, please contact us via .


Q: What are you hoping will be the same for the team?

Dr. Moreno:
Our website will be the same and so will all our social media handles. Our commitment to doing high quality, innovative research focused on adolescents and social media will not ever change. Wherever we move, we are committed to collaborating with adolescents, parents, and community members in the development and translation of our work. We also are doing all that we can do stay in touch with all our SMAHRT Scholars Program Alumni, SMAHRTeam Alumni, and collaborators. As a social media research team, we plan to stay in touch using all the digital tools that we can muster!

Q: Speaking of the SMAHRT Scholars program, what does the future of this program look like?

Dr. Moreno:

We are committed to continue this program, and anticipate launching a new cohort in Madison in the summer of 2018. We are also looking into the possibility of having two sites, Seattle and Madison, and having the program in both those cities. Stay in touch if you are interested, we’ll keep you posted!

SMAHRT Scholars 2017 after touring the Seattle Children’s Hospital. Click image to learn more about this program!

Stay connected with SMAHRT on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep up with SMAHRT happenings as the team adventures to the Midwest!


Collaborator Spotlights

Collaborator Spotlight: Holly Gerla


Holly Gerla is a woman who wears many hats. While Holly’s official title at Charles Wright Academy is Academic Technology Coordinator, she is—amongst other things—a technology teacher to lower, middle and high school students. SMAHRT had the pleasure of collaborating with Holly while conducting focus groups with students at Charles Wright Academy to gain a better understanding of young teens’ technology use. Holly’s experience as a technology teacher leads her to have unique insight into the impact social media is having on the mental health and behavior of adolescents. In her courses, she covers everything from technical skills to cyberbullying.


When Holly started teaching technology courses, she was surprised to learn just how open students were to discuss their experiences with technology when given the platform to do so.

“It takes time to really create a space where kids feel like it is safe to share what’s going on with them. Some of the things we talk about are uncomfortable, [such as] technology addiction, pornography or sexting. All those things that adults [typically] don’t want to talk about. But the students actually do, and they need a space to really talk about it. They have a lot of concerns,” Holly shares.


One of the opportunities for students to vocalize these concerns is in Holly’s ninth grade Digital Citizenship class. Digital Citizenship is defined by the acronym SCRAP, which stands for using technology safely, critically, responsibly, appropriately and productively.

However, Holly is sure to highlight not only rules surrounding technology, but the opportunities for learning and creativity it allows: “[the coursework] is not just a list of what you can’t do but what you can.”

Each year, her classes embark on a variety of innovative projects that integrate coursework of other classes such as math, history and English while strengthening technical skills. One such project includes the third grade’s longstanding Nisqually Watershed fieldtrips, in which the students use GoogleEarth to map locations over the course of the year. This results in a digital picture of what the watershed looks like, combined with photos from the trip, and the students’ writing from their science journals. Other unique projects in other grades include creating a documentary and a website.

Early in the year, classes are very skills-based, as student learn new platforms, web tools, and managing accounts online. Content creation picks up as the year moves on. Holly adds, “By the end of the year they are much more independent and self-directed, they know how the tools work.”


Holly is also cognizant of the layers of media usage. She covers a breadth of topics in Digital Citizenship including, but not limited to: privacy and security, technology and the law, copyright and fair use, and the physical, social and emotional impact of media. The Digital Citizenship class, in particular, is largely structured around discussion and opinion sharing. The most inspiring conversations she has had with students have centered on the ethics and responsibility one has for what they post online. Students even stop by her office to ask about challenges that arise for them regarding technology, such as copyright law, or how to handle online disagreements.

Holly works not only with students of varying ages but also in conjunction with the head librarian of the school to hold workshops that educate parents and the greater community. Holly emphasizes the importance of whole family involvement when it comes to guidelines regarding media usage. One thing she has learned is that parents sometimes don’t intervene until a problem arises, rather than setting guidelines and starting a dialogue early on. The parent workshops seek to provide tools for parents to help them on that path of establishing clear family guidelines.

“One of the surprises parents would find is that [their children] get why their parents have rules. They like them. They’re going to complain about them to your face, but they actually really appreciate knowing what the guidelines are. When the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with the Family Media Use Plan, I actually made it an assignment to go home and create a media plan with your family and to fill it out and discuss it together. I think it’s empowering when the rules don’t just apply to the kids, that [guidelines] are beneficial for everybody”


It is evident Holly’s role at Charles Wright is far and wide-reaching. Furthermore, it is clear that more schools could benefit from adopting the type of technology courses Holly teaches. She points to technology education’s many purposes, including job preparedness, as well as education on a more behavioral or social level. Lastly, Holly is ultimately hopeful about the potential technology holds for education. She points out that while adolescents are often savvy when it comes to online entertainment, technology education helps students to take those same devices to learn and empower themselves.
“Take those tools and use them for your own learning. That’s really where the future of education is. You can get any information you want at any time you want, most of it for free on the internet. If you’re passionate about something, if you’re interested in it, go figure it out. Harness the power of those tools to direct your own learning and education.”

SMAHRT is grateful to Holly and Charles Wright Academy and their collaboration with our research team. Thank you, Holly, for being an inspiration and an example for the benefits of technology education.

To learn more about Holly’s work, feel free to visit her class website.


SMAHRT Summer Scholars Highlights

The Summer Scholars Program ran from July 10-14th this year. With 25 Scholars, 10 Scholar Alumni Mentors and countless staff and faculty support, we would definitely have to say that this year’s program was a success! Thank you for Seattle Children’s Research Institute, our visiting faculty and of course, our returning 2015 and 2016 Scholar Alumni Mentors.

SMAHRT Scholars, Scholars Alumni Mentors, and SMAHRT Staff having fun taking a group photo!

Here are some photos as a highlight the exciting moments we had throughout the week:

Day 1: Introductions, Tour of SCRI Jack MacDonald Building’s Bench Labs and Field Trip to MoPOP


BradKerr_Scholars MeganMoreno_Scholars





IMG_5054 IMG_5108



Day 2: Research Process Overview, Researcher Career Conversation Lunch, and Independent Research Proposals

IMG_5177   IMG_5219

IMG_5276 IMG_5266.jpg

Day 3: Seattle Children’s Hospital Tour, Research Career Panel, and Independent Research Project Data Collection

IMG_5328  IMG_5356




Day 4: Data Entry and Analysis, Scholars Alumni Panel, Clinical Research Associate Tours, and Poster Design

IMG_5302.jpg  IMG_5510











Day 5: Elevator Speech, Research Opportunity Workshops, Poster Presentations, and the Closing Ceremony






For more photos check out this link: and look for #SMAHRTscholars on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!





The Road to the Undergraduate Research Symposium: Projecting forward to graduate school and future careers

By Aleenah Ansari / Communications Intern

[Writer’s Note: Leading up to 20th Annual UW Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS) on May 19, we shared a bit about each of our research interns and their projects on various topics related to social media and adolescent health via Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. This is the final feature in a series of articles that outlines broader takeaways from the URS and how it allowed current research interns to 1) gain research exposure, 2) develop community, and 3) work toward their long-term career and professional goals.]

Research interns at the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT) work toward a variety of long-term goals that could include medical school, graduate programs, or a career in social services. Regardless of the specific industry they enter, most interns are looking for outlets to positively impact people’s lives in some way. Learning how to design and implement an independent research project at SMAHRT can help students develop skills to work toward this long-term goal.

For research intern and recent University of Washington (UW) graduate Surupa Sarkar, working with SMAHRT taught her that data analysis was an integral part of research, and the project introduced her to new social sciences research methodologies like content analysis and code book development.

“With this internship, I’ve learned that there are so many different ways to analyze your data through programs, whether it’s quantitative or qualitative data,” Surupa said. “I’m hoping to use what I’ve learned about data management and hopefully go to school for biostatistics.”

Photo May 19, 5 04 41 PM
Nikki Singh presents her independent project on themes of alcohol and alcohol safety messaging on Facebook event pages.

Similarly, SMAHRT research intern and UW student Nikki Singh identified an interest in health care early on her college career, but she initially didn’t know how she wanted to contribute to the field. Through conversations with other SMAHRT interns, Nikki identified a strong interest in public policy as an outlet to create impactful change.

“Through Dr. [Megan] Moreno, I connected with past interns who have worked here, and I’ve talked to them about where they are now,” Nikki said. “It’s nice to connect with all these different careers so I know what my options are.”

Nikki also gained exposure to legislation and policy after working on the bullying research project, which focused on creating a conceptual model for cyberbullying and standardizing the language of bullying policies in the United States. Now, Nikki hopes to pursue a Master’s of Public Health in epidemiology or statistics to prepare her for a potential career in public policy reform.

SMAHRT research intern Jesse Rohwer is also interested in public policy but wants to

Photo May 19, 5 21 07 PM
Jesse Rohwer presents his poster on the ethical codes for social service providers, and how they address client-professional interactions on social media.

work in social work or behavioral science, and he will be graduating from Seattle Central College this spring with a degree in Applied Behavioral Science. Because of these interests, Jesse chose to focus his independent research project on compliance of social science professionals with ethical codes.

“Other than being interested in the ethical sides of social media, the most interesting parts of my program have dealt with public policy and political economy,” Jesse said. “I’ve gotten the impression that that’s where the work gets done and things really change, and I would like to get involved with it and possibly [have] a career [in it].”

Photo May 19, 5 12 18 PM
Marina Jenkins presents her findings on the discourse among parents about vaccine attitudes on parenting blogs, and how these attitudes are influenced by events in the community related to vaccines.

Before joining SMAHRT, research intern and recent graduate Marina Jenkins had previously explored different aspects of the humanities, epidemiology, and disease-oriented research methodologies through her coursework in biocultural anthropology at the University of Washington. She noted that this internship allowed her to build on this past experience and identify a new research question to explore.

“I have been particularly interested in subjects relating social media use to health outcomes, or representation of health information on social media,” Marina said. “[This] caught my attention [when I was] being introduced to some of the projects here and their applications to public health.”

Photo May 19, 5 05 02 PM
Chad Rosevear presents his research findings about the relationship between mobile app use and empathy among college students

For other SMAHRT research interns like Chad Rosevear, working on a research project at SMAHRT provided more exposure to the healthcare field, which is where he wants to work in the future.

“I want to pursue a career in medicine or biomedical research. While the SMAHRT team is not necessarily either of those, it has provided me with valuable professional skills as well as many networking opportunities,” Chad said. “It has challenged me to learn how to work independently for something that will be fantastic in the long run.”

Although many SMAHRT interns are interested in careers related to epidemiology and health care, these research skills can be applied to any industry. SMAHRT research intern Christian Tinoco Vera will graduate this spring with a degree in communications and a minor in business marketing from UW Tacoma, and he believes that working on his independent research project will prepare him to work in the marketing and consulting industry.

“Going into marketing, it’s interesting to see what drives consumers to do certain behaviors,” Christian said. “This project gave me an opportunity to look into how students think and what influences them.”

Although all SMAHRT research interns may go on to a variety of industries or careers, their research questions and projects can inform interventions, programs, and policy that impact current and future social media users.

“There’s a lot to learn from social media, and it’s something that influences teenagers, young adults, and even children right now. We need to do a lot of research to figure out who it’s influencing, and how we can utilize [this knowledge] to create interventions,” Jesse said. “We can strengthen interventions if we build better trust with [the community].”

Intern Spotlights

The Road to the Undergraduate Research Symposium: Building community through interdisciplinary collaboration

By Aleenah Ansari / Communications Intern

[Writer’s Note: Leading up to 20th Annual UW Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS) on May 19, we shared a bit about each of our research interns and their projects on various topics related to social media and adolescent health via Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. This is the second of three features that outline broader takeaways from the URS and how it allowed current research interns to 1) gain research exposure, 2) develop community, and 3) work toward their long-term career and professional goals.]

When Aubrey Gower, a current research intern and graduating senior from the University of Washington (UW) with a double major in Psychology and Biology, interviewed to join the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT) three years ago, she appreciated that students and staff members on the team represented a variety of disciplines ranging from biochemistry to public health, and everyone has the opportunity to learn from other through collaboration on independent and team projects.

Photo May 19, 4 56 44 PM
Aubrey Gower presents her third and final independent research project with SMAHRT – this study focused on the association of problematic internet use and mobile app use among college freshmen.

“Each person I met with had a unique interest in the research they were doing, but also in the team as a whole. It seemed like there was a lot of availability for growth on the team as well as growth as an individual in terms of research,” Aubrey said. “The way we do research with [social media] is very unique, and they take into account a lot of unique perspectives that bench lab research is unable to do.”


An interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to research:

Additionally, SMAHRT’s use of social science research methods like content and statistical analysis and field surveys can be new to interns who have just worked on bench lab work, Josh Scheck, a SMAHRT research intern who is double majoring in political science and biology at the University of Washington, noted this distinction when he first joined the team.

“Before coming here, I had a very specific area of knowledge in molecular biology, and I

Photo May 19, 5 04 07 PM
Josh Scheck presents his research poster on how college preparedness programs engage with users on social media, and the type of content that generates engagement.

was in my niche. Coming into this team was sort of a struggle in transitioning to the social sciences, but it is really rewarding to do this type of research after knowing how to contribute,” Josh said. “Now, I feel comfortable with this research and biology research.”


SMAHRT research intern Surupa Sarkar, who is graduating from UW with a degree in Biochemistry, echoed this sentiment and said that working on her independent project by conducting interviews, working on content analysis, and identifying salient themes in her research was a more collaborative process than research she had done in the past. For example, Surupa used concept mapping to identify salient themes from the interviews she conducted for her independent project.

Creating a community among SMAHRT interns and staff:

When designing and implementing their independent research projects, every SMAHRT intern works collaboratively with other SMAHRT research interns, Dr.  Megan Moreno, and other SMAHRT professional staff members. They can provide guidance about the research process, suggestions to identify themes in the data, troubleshoot study recruitment challenges, and strategies to present their findings in an accessible way. SMAHRT research intern Jesse Rohwer noted that he valued being able to meet with Dr. Moreno and receive feedback on his interview questions and data analysis process.

“She’s been really helpful on the project but most importantly, she’s just incredibly supportive. She does so much, and I don’t know quite how,” Jesse said. “There’s that support there, and she also provides very valuable advice on studies.”

To help create community, most of the SMAHRT research interns and professional staff attend a weekly team meeting to go over project progress, receive feedback on their independent projects, and discuss relevant topics about social media in the news and their potential implications on SMAHRT’s future work.

“One thing I really like is being able to discuss with my peers about specific parts of our research. There’s a lot more debate, and you have to come informed to meetings,” Josh said. “Everyone conducts themselves very professionally … but there’s also a time to have fun with people on the team.”

In addition to contributing to discussions during team meetings, SMAHRT research intern Christian Tinoco Vera, who will be graduating from UW Tacoma with a degree in communications and a minor in business administration, noted that all of the interns can provide helpful feedback for steps of the research process ranging from developing a codebook to designing survey questions.

“Other interns are always available, and you can run the surveys or whatever you’re working on [by them], and they can help check for usability,” Christian said. “It’s always good to get someone else’s perspective because you might be biased toward the thing you create.”

Engaging with the broader community:

Beyond the support of other interns and SMAHRT staff members, SMAHRT research intern Chad Rosevear noted that he also received support from his own community, which occurred when he posted his research survey that sought to gauge the relationship between mobile application use and how easily a user will experience personal distress.


Photo May 19, 5 05 02 PM
Chad Rosevear presents his research findings about the relationship between mobile app use among college students.

“My friends and family all shared it on their own social media and, in less than a day, I reached my population goal. It was really nice,” Chad said. “My friends were also eager to be guinea pigs when I was piloting the study, which was incredibly helpful.”


SMAHRT research interns can also work on projects that connect their research with the greater Seattle community. For example, Josh’s independent project focused on the way that college preparedness programs like the Dream Project at the University of Washington interact with students and volunteers on social media. Josh chose this topic because of his interest in supporting underrepresented students, and he wanted to provide recommendations on best practices that could increase social media engagement.

“I come from a pretty diverse community, and I want to help my [community] get into college too. One thing that made more invested in this project was doing outreach on the team. We went to a community that didn’t have much money, and they weren’t really interested in many topics when we talked about our Seattle Children’s team,” Josh said. “I’m hoping a project like this can reach those types of people and maybe get them more engaged.”

Josh worked with other research interns to identify specific themes across engagement posts, which is part of the process of creating a codebook. Josh noted and other team members provided feedback and suggestions that informed his content analysis.

“With making the codebook, there’s so much discussion about how to create it what should be what. Everyone has a unique perspective,” Josh said.  “It’s very [collaborative], but the goal is to make something we all agree on. That’s difficult but if we get there, it’s really rewarding.”

In addition to the SMAHRT community, interns have the opportunity to serve as mentors during the Summer Scholars program, which can be a valuable opportunity for professional development.

“Almost a week into my internship here, I worked with a lot of students [as a mentor], and I got to experience giving feedback and constructive criticism,” Christian said. “That really helped with understanding [how] to communicate [effectively].”

Ultimately, all of the interns contribute to an interdisciplinary community marked by collaboration, which can be a valuable experience for students as they move on pursue team-based work in their academics or future careers.

Through their work, SMAHRT research interns work on meaningful projects and learn how to share it with the community in an accessible way. Because everyone is impacted by social media on an everyday basis, this research has stakes for everyone in the community.


Photo May 19, 5 10 18 PM
Research intern Surupa Sarkar presents on her independent research project, which focused on popular culture’s influence on the college students’ attitudes toward marijuana.

“It’s interesting because we don’t know how your technology use affects us yet since social media is relatively new,” Surupa said. “It’s cool that there’s a research team in Seattle that focuses specifically on social media use with adolescents so over time, we can understand what  the health implications of [it are].”


Stayed tuned for our final feature on the Road to the Undergraduate Research Symposium, and read our previous post on the value of research exposure here.

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.


The Road to the Undergraduate Research Symposium: Research Exposure

Allowing students to explore independent research questions related to social media and adolescent health

By Aleenah Ansari

[Writer’s Note: Leading up to UW Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS), we featured each of our research interns and their projects on various topics related to social media and adolescent health via our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter social media channels. This is the first of three features that outline broader takeaways from the URS and how it allowed research interns to 1) gain research exposure, 2) develop community, and 3) work toward their long-term career goals.]

When it comes to research, there is typically a spectrum of roles ranging from identifying a problem to designing a project with the right methodology that can effectively translate to positive impact the target population. Research interns on the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT) experience every stage of this process from identifying a research question to sharing their results through presentations like the Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Photo May 19, 5 12 18 PM


“It’s nice that this is a smaller team where you get to be involved in multiple projects and have assistance in starting your research training,” said Marina Jenkins, a current SMAHRT research intern.

With the recent growth of social media platforms and technology use, SMAHRT’s research is certainly timely and has a broad reach. Currently, there are no set recommendations about technology use, which opens up a variety of research questions about how to use it judiciously or, the way long-term use can impact people. SMAHRT is unique in that its members conduct research on a subject that has not been extensively researched in the past, which provides a variety of avenues for exploration about social media use, ethics, and engagement.

Photo May 19, 5 10 18 PM“It’s interesting because we don’t know how technology use affects us yet since social media is relatively new,” said Surupa Sarkar, a SMAHRT research intern. “It’s cool that there’s a research team in Seattle that focuses specifically on social media use with adolescents so over time, we can understand the health implications of [it].”

Additionally, the far-reaching impact of social media makes SMAHRT’s work incredibly relevant to current and future users, particularly adolescents.

Photo May 19, 5 04 41 PM“Now is the time to be studying [social media] because everything is changing with it,” said Nikki Singh, a SMAHRT research intern. “The generation before us, social media blew up when [they] were adults. Our generation, social media blew up when we were teenagers. The next generation, social media has been a part of their entire lives. It’s really interesting to see it through time. It’s such a big part of our lives, and there’s so much we don’t know about it.”
In their independent projects, SMAHRT research interns proactively identify their own research questions that relate to social media and adolescent health in an effort to understand current social media use with goals of identifying potential interventions or guidelines that could be implemented in the future.

Research interns contribute to research projects on teams while also exploring intersections of social media and adolescent health that are interesting to them. For example, Marina became interested in epidemiology toward the end of her college career, so she chose to focus her independent project on the conversation surrounding vaccines on parenting blogs. This allowed her to bridge this individual interest and develop robust research skills.

“I really wanted to experience working individually on research and in a team research setting, and also working on each step of the research process like doing literature reviews, developing projects, data collection, and writing the paper,” Marina said.

Marina hoped that this research could inform future public health efforts that focus on sharing accurate information about vaccines.

“There’s a need to develop better interventions to improve vaccination coverage, and to fight against anti-vaccination sentiments that have come up over the past several years,” Marina said. “A lot of it is related to publication of false information, and the thought that outbreaks, especially things publicized on social media, have influenced whether people or not are vaccinating.”

Some research interns like Kate Wilburn came to SMAHRT to conduct research that focuses on the intersection of technology and adolescent health. Kate initially discovered her interest in social media through a past internship at Youth Tech Health, which is a community organization that connects adolescents with accurate health information.

“Afterward, I wanted to learn more and dive deeper into how technology can be leveraged to improve youth health through innovative solutions, as well as learn about how technology affects youth health, particularly [their] mental health,” Kate said. “I have also always enjoyed conducting research and was excited to continue to improve image1those skills.”

With this identified interest, Kate chose to work on an independent research project that focused on mental health by exploring college students’ perception of the relationship between anxiety and social media. After presenting at the Undergraduate Research Symposium and the School of Public Health Undergraduate Symposium at the University of Washington, Kate hopes to work on a research paper to summarize her findings.

“My experiences at SMAHRT will be a big help when I eventually apply to graduate school, since research is what a lot of schools are looking for,” Kate said. “If I’m able to get my paper published, it would be particularly helpful! Other than graduate school, the skills I’ve gained give me a very solid research background, which is integral to many public health-related careers.”

Ultimately, SMAHRT research interns get to work on interesting questions and contribute to the growing body of research on social media and technology use.

“Social media is a rimage1_jaymin.jpgelevant research topic, and … an area of society that is heavily under-researched,” said SMAHRT research intern Jaymin Sohal of his research on how college students perceive and identify with antibiotic-related tweets. “My research project is only one small piece to the puzzle. The more important thing is to make sure we are working on solving this puzzle.”

This is our first post in a series on the Undergraduate Research Symposium – stay tuned for parts 2 and 3!