Staff Spotlights

Staff Spotlight: Aubrey Gower

Aubrey Gower would truly like to be known as a forever intern. Aubrey started her SMAHRT career as an Undergraduate Research Intern at the University of Washington. Four years later, she is now a full time SMAHRTie.

When she was in her fall quarter of sophomore year, Aubrey was seeking research experience. At this point in time, she had not had any prior experience and didn’t really know how to approach the research process. Initially, she was looking for bench lab research, such as neurobiology among other areas. Aubrey remembered reading SMAHRT’s description amongst all the other research lab positions. “I thought it was really interesting because at the time I was pursuing psychology and biology and I always liked the duality of those two…”, said Aubrey. SMAHRT seemed to cover both of her interests in biology and behavior, straying away from bench research.

 

After applying, Aubrey was interviewed and enjoyed everything about the team. SMAHRT’s interview process allows for each team member to meet the potential new member. She liked that everyone had their own individual projects and interests. As an undergraduate, Aubrey was interested in drug research. At the time of her interview, SMAHRT was conducting a lot of studies on alcohol, marijuana and tobacco. When Aubrey left the office that day she felt as though she had met her people. The start of Aubrey’s SMAHRT career began with a combination of circumstances, but she fell into it a little backwards. She began by looking for bench research, but she feels it worked out better for her to be involved in adolescent health and technology research.

 

Although Aubrey feels like a forever intern, she is now an Associate Research Specialist. Throughout the course of her 4 years with SMAHRT she evolved into more leadership and mentorship roles. This evolved naturally while she was taking on these bigger tasks. Aubrey is now in a full time position, leading projects, attending meetings, and continuing to mentor students on and outside of the team. “I do genuinely consider myself a forever intern because I feel like I am always learning, kind of like when I was an intern”, said Aubrey. She feels like she is always absorbing new information or skills. Aubrey believes that you can never know too much, there will always be something new to learn.

 

Aubrey continues to learn at and outside of work. She is in the midst of applying to medical school. Her overall goal is to become an Adolescent Health Specialist. Aubrey wants to work with underserved youth, particularly urban youth. She also wants to pursue a Masters of Public Health (MPH) so she will be able to work in a clinic as well as conduct research. Her work with SMAHRT has exposed different health behaviors and outcomes that are relevant to adolescents, which has spurred some of her career and research interests.

 

One of her favorite projects was one that she worked on while still in undergrad. The study was called Investigating Washington State Marijuana Business Presence on Social Media. It looked at local business’ marijuana advertising in Seattle. The study investigated if the advertisements appealed to youth and whether marijuana companies were using tactics similar to those of Tobacco companies. This is Aubrey’s favorite project because she got to witness the entire research process, from grant writing to developing the codebook. This was also a very collaborative project and the team members that worked on this study still stay in touch today. Recently, Aubrey had the opportunity to present a part of this study at the Pediatric Academic Society (PAS) Conference this year in Toronto.

 

Aubrey’s time at SMAHRT has been riddled with learning experiences. The most important lesson that she has learned is the fact that there is always more to learn. Research is fun because you need to find something that is innovative, while looking at the topic from different perspectives. “I always go into it assuming I come away with something new and also at the same time I get to understand either populations or health behaviors that interest me”, said Aubrey. Her advice to beginning researchers is that you should never be satisfied with just one answer.  You should seek out as many perspectives that you can, and collaborate as much as you can.

 

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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 media.social-media-icon-collage

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.

 

Features, Staff Spotlights, Uncategorized

Staff Spotlight: Brad Kerr

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Brad Kerr

You may have seen the incredible research or programs that stem from the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team, but have you ever met the masterminds behind the scenes? These masterminds, also known as our wonderful staff members, contribute to the integrity of SMAHRT on a daily basis. Whether this is planning our annual Summer Scholars, leading projects or mentoring our interns, our staff members are the glue that holds our team together. No matter how long they have been with us, our staff always brings new ideas and fresh perspectives relating to social media and adolescent health.

Some of our staff have been with us for a short time, and some have been here several years. One of those who have been a SMAHRTie for ages is Brad Kerr, one of our current Clinical Research Associates. Kerr graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in Psychology and English in 2010 and joined the team in the summer of 2011. This was back when the team was called the Adolescent Health Research Team (AHRT) and was located in Wisconsin. The team’s focus on college students tied in well with Brad’s interest in research and higher education. During this time, Kerr also completed a Master’s in Administrative Leadership, specializing in Higher Education Administration at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2013.

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After re-locating to Seattle, AHRT became SMAHRT to reflect the growth of social media in society

Kerr never imagined his time at AHRT would lead him to a career in Seattle, and also never thought the team’s name and focus would change. After the re-location from Wisconsin to Washington, AHRT quickly became SMAHRT, incorporating social media in the team’s research. Why the switch? In black and white, when the team moved to Seattle Children’s there was already an “Adolescent Health Research Team” in the area and the goal was to distinguish between the two teams. Additionally, the change was deemed appropriate given the ever-increasing significance of social media in society. There is one more aspect of the new name that is especially great in Kerr’s eyes: the endless opportunities to make puns on the team acronym. It was a SMAHRT idea to tie in social media in the study of adolescent health, and the team has capitalized on the various opportunities to study different aspects of this relationship.

As a Clinical Research Associate, Kerr plays a role in leading projects; ensuring data collection is completed, while also collecting data himself. His favorite project thus far on SMAHRT was the team’s study that evaluated college students’ alcohol and substance references on Facebook over a five-year period. This project always kept him on his toes – there was always something new, interesting and challenging because Facebook was constantly changing and he found this aspect fun to troubleshoot. He is currently contributing to projects that are at all different stages, meaning no two days in the office ever looks the same.

One of his most important and favorite roles is serving as a supervisor and mentor to interns. He helps them move their independent research projects forward and makes sure their work on larger team projects is going well. Kerr trains the interns to use our research methods, helps them brainstorm research project ideas, and assists with anything else that comes up throughout the day. Kerr has served as a dedicated and supportive mentor, always willing to go the extra mile to ensure our interns feel supported in all challenges that arise in tackling new projects.

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Kerr (far right) with his mentor group during the 2016 Summer Scholars Program

What does Kerr find most compelling about social media and adolescent health? He finds the relationship interesting and challenging to tackle these topics as things change rapidly. He finds that new social media platforms emerge quickly, but with no instruction manuals; meaning, we get our hands on them and just start playing. It is not until much later when we start to wonder how these platforms impact our health, and what the best way to use the platform is. Kerr finds it interesting that we can come up with useful guidelines that adapt to the quickly changing social media landscape.

Brad Kerr has been an integral part of SMAHRT since 2011, and continues to be a light in our office that can brighten anyone’s day. Stay updated on Brad’s adventures in March as he jets off to New Orleans to present at the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine conference! We are so thankful for Brad, and cannot wait to see what is in store for you and SMAHRT!