Hi Everyone! I hope you all have been able to stay warm over the past couple of days.
As both Jada and Gracyn have mentioned, Experiential Learning is part of our curriculum for College of Public Health students. Undergraduate students can choose to pursue an internship, research, service-learning, or global learning opportunities. I was very fortunate to have been offered an undergraduate research assistant position with Dr. Natoshia Askelson’s team. I started a couple weeks before this semester and have learned so much already!
What I enjoy most about my research job is the ability for me to jump in on multiple projects and learn about many aspects of public health. Our team operates on a project-based system which allows you to understand the full scope of the project before you move on to another task. While our tasks are individual at times, they often feel group oriented because of the culture Dr. Askelson has created.
The first project I was able to work on was a literature review for the Iowa Department of Public Health. We were looking at past literature to see if there were certain communities that would benefit from a different approach to vaccination campaigns. I was able to understand the importance of looking at all communities you are planning to address or target for an intervention. With the upcoming COVID-19 vaccination campaign, we found it important to refer to past campaigns with the polio, smallpox, and HPV vaccinations.
One of the projects I have been most excited to work on is a qualitative research project where we are interviewing ENTs to see if it would be feasible for them to promote the HPV vaccination to their patients. This requires my team to submit an IRB application, so I am looking forward to learning more about that process. HPV vaccination rates are down in Iowa while the numbers of preventable cancer are only increasing. If you are under age forty-six, consider talking to your doctor about the HPV vaccine.
In addition to the literature reviews and ENT project, I have also been able to work on surveys regarding micropolitan communities and adolescent mental health. My opportunities to participate in survey response have emphasized the importance of collaboration with my fellow team members.
I am so grateful for this experience because without it, I would not have discovered my passion for research. I have been taking advantage of this opportunity and soaking up all of the knowledge of my peers. It is one thing to learn about how research operates through your courses but a completely different one to jump right in and actually complete tasks and participate in research.
Most of all, I love our team dynamic. Everyone is so positive and uplifting! It can be difficult to onboard a team member virtually, but Dr. Askelson, Becky Bucklin, and the rest of the team have made me feel so welcomed. I am comfortable asking questions and my co-workers are more than willing to answer. In our team meetings, we laugh and build a sense of camaraderie through team-building activities. Later this month we are planning a team game night, which I am really looking forward to! I have had a lot of fun discovering the research topics I am passionate about and can’t wait to learn more!
– Eliza Steere