At an early age, I have seen stigmas and stereotypes at play as an individual with a physical disability. Furthermore, I personally experienced weaving through these issues to get to where I am now. As a result, I am really interested in diversity as well as discrimination research and hope to conduct research on it someday. The SPUR program with Dr. Gaither at Duke University allows me to understand such issues in the context of multiracial research. I gained a lot of valuable experiences regarding research methodology, poster presentations, data analysis, and the multiracial literature. Because of these experiences, I feel more prepared for graduate school and for my future endeavors of becoming a researcher.
At the beginning of the program, I was a little nervous since I needed to work remotely instead of on site. I thought it would introduce problems communicating with everybody in the lab and be quite isolating. However, Dr. Gaither and her lab were very welcoming and accommodating and constantly explored new ways to help make communication smoother. Moreover, Dr. Gaither set up weekly meetings to discuss any issues I may have, which was especially helpful. As a result, none of these concerns came to fruition and I was able to have a very fulfilling experience. Furthermore, the lab manager, Terri Frasca, helped me a lot with coordinating tasks that I needed to complete and orienting me to the lab at the beginning. I truly felt at home working for Dr. Gaither’s lab even though I was not physically present.
In the lab, I was able to do many cool and interesting research tasks. The most interesting one to me was using the software known as FaceGen to create multiracial Asian/Black and Asian/White faces as stimuli for experiments. Previously, I was curious as to how studies create facial stimuli, which made this task particularly enlightening. At first, this task was a little challenging because it was difficult making a variety of faces if using interface with few options, but when using the interface with more options, it became difficult to make it realistic. However, by working with the software, I became more proficient with FaceGen.
Furthermore, this task was even more interesting since the stimuli are being used for a collaborative study with a researcher in China. I never really worked on cross cultural research before and it was quite interesting how social phenomena are so different in different cultures. Also, I helped translate a survey into Chinese by reviewing the translated version by the collaborator. It was interesting how certain words that are offensive to our culture are considered good in another culture.
Another big part of my tasks was coding videos in which participants discussed with confederates on affirmative action at Duke University. Specifically, I coded information on nonverbal and verbal cues related to comfort. Interestingly, I found that the nonverbal cues do not necessarily match the verbal cues.
I also got a chance to work with one of the graduate students, Brenda Straka, on my own research project. This involved analyzing a large data set from the Alcohol Edu For College Survey of 500,000 students regarding issues related to alcohol. Specifically, we looked into analyzing the intersectionality of multiracial identity and sexual orientation and their additive effects on alcohol use. Through the analysis experience, I gained further experience using R as well as SPSS. All this work culminated in a poster presentation at Duke University at the end of my SPUR program. Through this entire process, Dr. Gaither and Brenda offered amazing mentoring to help me through the study.
In conclusion, SPUR has given me a great opportunity to hone my research skills and open my eyes to many issues at hand. I am incredibly grateful for Dr. Gaither being such an excellent mentor for pretty much anything at all. She has taught me so much about both research and other professional aspects. Through these experiences, I have gained a much better understanding of psychology research. This would be a tremendous opportunity for anyone who can take advantage of it.