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.

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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

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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Features, Intern Spotlights

Intern Alum Spotlight: Haley Johnson

Committed to showing the impactful, collaborative work of SMAHRT

By Aleenah Ansari

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 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.

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“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.”

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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.

Features, Intern Spotlights

Intern Spotlight: Jesse Rohwer

Exploring the intersection of social services, technology use, and policy
By Aleenah Ansari / Communications Intern

Although the research of the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT) often informs current understanding of how social media changes, and the ways it can be used more judiciously, these findings extend beyond the realm of guidelines for technology use among young adults. Jesse Rohwer, a SMAHRT research intern who has been with the team since Oct. 2016, is interested in the use of social media in social service industries such as healthcare, social work, and vocational and substance abuse clinics.

 

Jesse is currently a senior in the Applied Behavioral Science Program at Seattle Central College (SCC), which strives to prepare students to enter human services professions through coursework exploring information-seeking strategies and research, ethics, and specific job skills necessary for future field work. In particular, Jesse is interested in the ethical oversight provided by code of ethics for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), which he had previously researched in courses about quantitative principles and ethics.

“I wrote a paper on it and slowly became more interested in it, especially with social media being an untapped area of research. I’ve continued to make [social media research with a psychological component] my speciality because I think it’s really interesting,” Jesse said. “There is really nothing else like [social media] that affects our lives in that way, and [has] changed lives so dramatically.”

The NASW Code of Ethics was created in 1960 to serve as a guide to best practices and core values for social work professionals. This code highlights that professionals in social services are committed to enhancing the well-being of the people they serve, and they strive to empower marginalized individuals such as those in poverty. The code states that social service professionals should strive to protect client confidentiality and be cautious when sharing information over the phone or through electronic and computer technology; however, the most recent revisions have only modified the non-discrimination standards section, and no revisions have occurred to reflect the rise of social media and technology use. Resultantly, the code lacks specific ethical protocol for client and patient interaction on social media because these platforms didn’t exist when the code was created.

Through his current independent research project at SMAHRT, Jesse is currently exploring the ethical practices of social service providers in regards to their use of social media to interact with clients. As a research intern, he has been working 15 hours a week to develop a codebook, arrange interviews with social service professionals, and analyze the data. This project fulfills the field practicum component of Jesse’s Applied Behavioral Science Program, and he will be presenting the findings at the Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS) at the University of Washington on May 19.

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Photo Courtesy of University of Washington Undergraduate Research Symposium Page 

“I’ve done a lot of research on this particular topic, and it seems like there’s a blatant hole in the research … that I would like to fill,” Jesse said. “I’m hoping [my research project] brings up more questions than answers.”

Jesse’s project explores the potential gap in research about the lack of training of social work providers regarding social media use, and a lack of industry-wide protocol about this topic. To seek information about this, Jesse conducted interviews with social service professionals from a range of public and private organizations, and he asked about their level of interaction with current or former clients on social media, as well as their perspective on how well the NASW Code of Ethics adequately outlines the best practices surrounding social media use. So far, the interviewees have provided a range of responses about their awareness of the protocol surrounding social media use, even from professionals working in the same organization.

“The has very vague statements on new technology like ‘follow the advice of authority figures’ and ‘be careful when using technology’” Jesse said. “Some industrious agencies are very clear about the boundaries between a professional and the client.”

Jesse is still in the process of conducting interviewees, and he is excited to share the findings and takeaways at URS next month.

“I have lots of colleagues in my program that work at [social service] organizations, and I would like to engage them and interest them in this research,” Jesse said.

Jesse’s project also brings up questions how to improve policies about client-professional relationships social media relationships, and if these policies should be implemented in school, an agency-by-agency basis, or on an industry-wide level.

“I would like to inform the industry to hopefully change the policy,” Jesse said.
Jesse initially joined SMAHRT to gain relevant research experience in the social sciences, and have the opportunity to network with professionals at Seattle Children’s. Long-term, he hopes to pursue a Master’s in Public Administration. He noted that working as a research intern helped him explore the intersection of technology, social science, and policy, and how ethical considerations can inform policy decisions. He hopes to apply the scientific principles he has learned to his future work in policy reform.

“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 make a career.”

Throughout his time on the team, Jesse said he felt very supportive by the other interns and staff members who have provided contacts for interviews, insight about creating a codebook for his research project, and feedback on survey questions or written content for his presentation. He has also appreciated the support of Dr. Moreno in the process of designing his independent project and optimizing his survey.

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Photo of Dr. Megan Moreno presenting at one of the sessions at SMAHRT Summer Scholars Program

“She’s been really helpful on the project but most importantly, she’s just incredibly supportive,” Jesse said. “She does so much, and I don’t know quite how.”

With the support of the team, Jesse hopes that this research project provides sufficient findings that can translate into a published paper in the future. Projecting forward, Jesse will be graduating from his Behavioral Science program at the end of this quarter. Afterward, he will be living in Tacoma during his gap year and hopes to pursue graduate school after.

To learn more about Jesse’s project and the final findings, be sure to visit the Undergraduate Research Symposium on May 19 in Mary Gates Hall. You can read our previous Intern Spotlight on Aubrey Gower here, or our previous Scholar Spotlight on Ema Bargeron here.

Follow our Instagram @SMAHRTeam as we post the SMAHRT interns in the final stretch in preparing for the 2017 UW URS

Features, Intern Spotlights, Uncategorized

Intern Spotlight: Aubrey Gower

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“All these experiences have been influential in exposing me to what research means and how it can be used to influence medicine and our community” – Aubrey Gower, Undergraduate Research Intern

What does a typical day for a SMAHRTie look like, you may ask? Good question! Not only do our team members work on various research studies, but they also fly around the country to present work at conferences, participate at community outreach events and assist in the planning of our annual programs. As our staff work diligently on these projects, our interns are treated no differently. Along with being an instrumental part of the research happening at SMAHRT, they are also encouraged to conduct their own independent project. They are not simply “interns,” but a dynamic part of the team that have a rare opportunity to contribute to and spearhead work to advance the understanding of the correlation between social media and adolescent health.

Just ask Aubrey Gower, a senior at the University of Washington and one of our fantastic undergraduate research interns. Gower is a Biology and Psychology double major, with a minor in Greek and Roman Classics, and has been with SMAHRT for a little over two years. Gower entered the team wanting to pursue clinical medicine with a focus in pediatrics, but interning at SMAHRT has broadened her original plan to include research in her future. Through contributing to different projects, such as the five-year cohort study investigating Facebook profiles and health behaviors among college students, and other experiences like shadowing physicians in adolescent medicine, Gower has been exposed to all the possibilities research holds. Ultimately, she hopes to work with underserved youth populations as a physician with an emphasis on research and intervention, to be able to better understand and better treat these communities.

As stated earlier, SMAHRT interns have the opportunity to conduct their own independent research project, and Gower has completed two of her own projects and has presented both at the Undergraduate Research Symposium at the University of Washington. Her first project was a content analysis looking at college Twitter pages that promote college lifestyles and their negative health behavior content. This was followed by her second project, a survey of college students aimed at understanding drinking behaviors and alcohol references seen over the social media app Snapchat. Gower is currently in the midst of conducting her third independent project with the hope of expanding this into a larger scale project, a pilot cohort investigating app use and problematic internet use among incoming college freshman.

Other than joking around with other members of the team, Gower’s favorite part of being on the SMAHRT team is the weekly team meetings. She loves how almost the entire team is able to come together and discuss current topics relevant in the field of technology and adolescent health, while it also being a time to give updates and simply just engage with one another. As you have probably noticed, Aubrey Gower is not only extremely driven, but extremely busy as well. How does she make it through her chaotic day? Green tea, which makes it possible for her to tackle her day, regardless of what big projects lay ahead.

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