Here, we highlight the work of some of the graduate and undergraduate students that work on center research projects.
During her three years as an undergraduate research assistant in the BCTR, Christine was involved in many different projects advancing positive youth development. The majority of her time was spent as a research assistant with ACT for Youth, through which she focused on preconception health research and messaging for youth, and evaluating the scope of youth homelessness in Tompkins County through a participatory action research project. She worked collecting focus group data, developing data management systems and qualitative coding structures, analyzing quantitative and qualitative data, generating report syntheses, posters, and presentations, and sharing findings with community members and stakeholders.
Since graduating from Cornell in May of 2012, Christine has stayed in Ithaca to work full time with the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence at the BCTR. She is now part of their Evaluation Team, evaluating the implementation of evidence-based programs for teen pregnancy prevention as part of the New York State Department of Health’s Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Initiative. As such, she is part of a staff working to advance evidence-based practices, while learning the realities of field-implementation from practitioners.
After pursing further graduate work, Christine hopes to take the values and framework of translational research, which is so integral to the work of the BCTR, to the field of Public Health practice. Through bridging scientific research and community practice, she would ultimately like to improve maternal and child health practices, specifically prenatal and postpartum health care, awareness, and education.
Catherine’s primary line of research at the BCTR concerns the impact of chronic pain on family relationships. As a member of Translational Research Institute on Pain in Later Life (TRIPLL), she works under the direction of Drs. Karl Pillemer and Cary Reid in examining how older parents’ chronic pain has implications for their adult children’s psychological well-being. She is also currently involved in a project concerning research priorities in the field of palliative care (PIs: Karl Pillemer, PhD and Cary Reid, MD).
Catherine is currently a third year doctoral student in Human Development. Upon completing her B.A. from Mount Holyoke College in 2008, she pursued pediatric anxiety research at Brown Medical School. While at Brown, she developed a strong interest in exploring how the early years of development serve as the foundation for subsequent trajectories, and how family relationships foster salubrious outcomes in later life. In particular, she studied between- and within-family differences in coping with childhood anxiety and related disorders. At Cornell, she has continued to investigate intergenerational relationships with a focus on adult interactions by applying the dyadic mechanisms present in the formative years of life to parent-child relationships in adulthood. Her research now concerns both the relational and psychological components of providing care to an older parent in pain.
Catherine recently completed her master’s thesis, which focused on the association between care recipient personality and caregiver health. Her hope is that this work will have direct clinical implications for family involvement in the treatment and care of older adults. Upon completion of her doctoral degree, Catherine hopes to obtain a post-doctoral position in a research institution or faculty position in an academic setting. Her goal is to merge research and practice within the context of her work on chronic pain and family caregiving.
Catherine enjoys being in the great outdoors, swimming in the ocean (or any body of water!) and spending time with friends and family.
FALL 2012 PROFILES
Rebecca transferred from a small community college in Wilmington, NC to Cornell University in 2011, her junior year. In her first semester at Cornell, Rebecca’s interest in non-suicidal self-injury research was ignited when she took Janis Whitlock’s class, Risk and Opportunity in Childhood and Adolescence. Rebecca had a personal attachment to the project, a close friend from home that self-injures, so she was extremely interested in Dr. Whitlock’s work. She immediately started working at BCTR in the fall of 2011, and soon thereafter, fell in love with investigating human behavior and the research process in general. Since discovering this new passion, she has been reading every book and paper on self-injury she could find. Her interest in research evolved into her professional goals: to attend graduate school for her Ph.D. in clinical psychology and to one day work at a research facility like the BCTR.
In her first year working with Dr. Whitlock (director, Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior), she spent a great deal of time creating a recovery model for self-injury, an area of the field that has not yet been explored. After conducting an exhaustive literature review on various recovery models, she constructed a six-stage, nonlinear recovery model for self-injury. Under Dr. Whitlock’s guidance, she identified the possible benchmarks of recovery and explored how behavioral cessation relates to personal growth in the recovery process. Future implications for this theoretical model could include recovery programs for self-injurers, as well as recovery programs for their families. Along with another research assistant, she presented this model and some preliminary findings at Cornell Undergraduate Research Board's research forum and BCTR’s student showcase. For the first time in her life, Rebecca felt as though she had found her niche, thus decided to stay in Ithaca this past summer to continue her research. She worked all summer on finalizing the recovery model in order to present preliminary findings at the 2012 International Society for the Study of Self-Injury (ISSS) conference. This was the highlight of her budding career in self-injury research and reinforced her future career goals in research.
The work she has done on the recovery model transformed into her senior honors thesis: How do differences in parent-adolescent communication affect the adolescent’s experience of self-injury and their recovery from self-injury? Now in her senior year, she is working on her thesis and learning the real “ins and outs” of the research process. She plans to take a gap year to work full-time in a research lab, and is looking for specific research labs to apply to now. Her gap year will be spent applying to clinical psychology programs and exploring which field of human development she hopes to specialize in. When Rebecca is not working and the weather is conducive, she can be found exploring Ithaca’s many gorges, waterfalls, and other natural wonders. Since she was a junior-transfer student, she spends most of her free time enjoying every precious second of her final year at Cornell!
As a research assistant at Act For Youth, Kate's work centered around the core values of the center—assets-based thinking, positive youth outcomes, cross-sector partnerships, etc. She managed data sets, generated summary reports and made recommendations to various service providers in communities throughout New York. As a research assistant at the Cornell Research Program for Self-Injurious Behavior, Kate worked to create user-friendly fact sheets and presentations that would increase access to information about interventions and supports available for self-injurious populations.
After graduating from Cornell in 2010, Kate joined Teach For America in Rhode Island. She taught sixth grade math in a high-poverty, public middle school in the heart of Providence. Although she finished her 2-year TFA commitment, Kate has decided to remain in the classroom for a 3rd year.
During this time, she also began graduate work as a fellow in the Urban Education Policy program at Brown University. This program is designed to bring the most pressing issues facing students in urban schools to the forefront of both local and national policy discussions. Similar to BCTR, the Urban Education Policy program has created a community of people that are committed to improving communities, schools, and outcomes for the adolescents that are often considered to be most “at risk”.
In Kate's four years as an undergraduate at Cornell, her time spent working in Beebe Hall and in various other BCTR locations has had the strongest impact on her post-graduate trajectory. "My official title is 'math teacher'; however, I strive every day to create a classroom that promotes collaborative problem solving, healthy-risk taking, and caring and trusting relationships among students and teachers," Kate said. The core values of BCTR, along with exposure to research and theories on resilience, agency, and community connectedness, have ultimately served to frame Kate Bubrick's theory of action as an educator, policy maker, and community member.
Meghan McDarby is a Human Development major in the College of Human Ecology. In the fall of her freshman year, Meghan realized the plethora of research opportunities available at Cornell and looked for a lab with a mission that matched her interests. She found such work with Professor Elaine Wethington and began in the summer of 2011 assisting on projects about life events and aging that were also translational in nature.
Guided by Wethington, Meghan works primarily on a project launched by the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging (CITRA) and the Translational Research Institute on Pain in Later Life (TRIPLL). In a collaboration between Cornell Ithaca and Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York City, Meghan helped draft a consensus document for a conference on pain disparities in racial and ethnic older adults. The nature of pain disparities research is interdisciplinary, an aspect which Meghan has particularly enjoyed. Meghan conducted the literature review for the consensus document and focused on addressing salient disparities in the treatment of pain. In October 2011, Meghan attended the consensus conference at Baruch College, where she met leaders in the field of pain disparities. Meghan continued her work on this project in spring 2012 and will remain involved in the project in the fall. The consensus document is currently being modified for submission for peer-review publication.
In addition to her academic work and research Meghan is Activities Coordinator for the Cornell Elderly Partnership, a campus club which organizes visits to Cayuga Ridge Nursing Facility. Meghan has also encouraged student involvement with residents at Kendal and especially enjoys Wednesday afternoons when she walks with a 92-year-old resident. Additionally, she enjoys being an instructor for Latin Israeli Dance. Meghan pursues a career in geriatrics and intends to attend medical school after her graduation in 2014. Ideally, she would like to work in end-of-care planning for low socioeconomic older adults and their families.
Elise is involved in two projects at BCTR. She is currently using the LONGSCAN study data in the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect to investigate the unique impact of childhood psychological maltreatment to changes in adolescent mental health symptoms at age 14. Dr. John Eckenrode is her master’s thesis chairperson. She is also conducting interviews for the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior with Dr. Janis Whitlock. In the future, Elise would like to continue working with the LONGSCAN data on psychological maltreatment outcomes as well as begin analyzing data from the Self-Injurious Behavior study.
After earning her B.S. in biological sciences at the University of California, Irvine, Elise moved to Berlin to teach fifth grade at an English language immersion school for a year. The following year, she moved to New York City for an M.A. in Science Education and another year of developmental psychology coursework from Teachers College, Columbia University. It was during a fellowship she had at a Bronx high school that she realized she wanted to study the impact of poverty on child and adolescent development, with the goal of directing policy with her work. Within the context of poverty, she is interested in both characteristics of the home environment and parent-child interactions and their influence on mental health and academic achievement. Elise is currently a first year doctoral student in Human Development.
After completing her doctoral training at Cornell, Elise hopes to obtain either an academic post-doctoral position at a research intensive university. Her goal is to influence child and family policy with her research. Whenever possible, Elise enjoys modern and contemporary art exhibitions, classical music performances, foreign films, and thrift store shopping.
SPRING 2012 PROFILES
Emily Kahoe Chen
Emily Kahoe Chen is a Ph.D. candidate in Human Development and a research assistant with Karl Pillemer, with whom she works on two primary projects. The Resident-to-Resident Elder Mistreatment project is an ongoing investigation of resident-to-resident aggression (RRA) in nursing homes. The second project, recently completed, was focused on the dissemination of the Method for Program Adaptation through Community Engagement (M-PACE). M-PACE, part of TRIPLL, is an innovative method for the adaptation of evidence-based programs that uses systematic and detailed feedback from program participants to guide adaptation.
After completing her undergraduate degree (Growth and Structure of Cities, Bryn Mawr College, 2003) and before coming to Cornell, Emily worked in two different organizations that used geographically-tied information to answer policy-relevant research questions about community development and neighborhood revitalization. She encountered how policy-makers are often compelled to make decisions without the best or sometimes any data or research at their disposal. Looking toward graduate school, Emily wanted to work in an area that would address the issue of getting good research into the hands of people who can make decisions or implement policies. Emily is specifically interested in issues related to health and chronic disease of older adults in the United States because she believes that understanding how to improve quality of life for this population, even in small or incremental ways, has the potential to help many people. She received her MA in Developmental Psychology from Cornell in Jan., 2012.
In addition to the above research projects, Emily recently completed her qualifying (“A”) exams, which addressed quality of life measurement and experimental and quasi-experimental design. She links her academic interests to practical considerations. Just as improving quality of life requires knowing how to define and measure it, being able to answer questions depends on knowing the best way to ask them. Emily hopes to use her background in these areas in her dissertation research, which will likely focus on intervention evaluation design for community-based health promotion programs. After receiving her degree, Emily would like to work in applied research, either for a governmental agency, foundation, or think-tank. She hopes that the methodological training she receives at Cornell can be applied to a wide variety of settings and research questions.
She enjoys gardening and assorted yard work during the short but glorious Ithaca summers. Emily and her husband have spent the last two years working on their fixer-upper house. Their latest project is painting the nursery: they are expecting their first child in June!
Biology and Society
Stephanie Shea is a senior Biology and Society major in the College of Human Ecology. The first-born child of a psychologist and a social worker, Stephanie has had a great interest in and appreciation for mental health even from a young age. Her research in this field began in high school when she participated in St. Francis Preparatory School’s esteemed Science Research Program. After one of her best friend’s came out to her as a “cutter” around this time, it was easy for Stephanie to take a personal interest in self-injurious behaviors. Under the mentorship of Dr. E. David Klonsky, she investigated the roles of loneliness and emptiness in self-injury and presented her findings for multiple research competitions and at her senior year symposium. It was through her high school research that Stephanie first became familiarized with the work of Janis Whitlock and other members of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior (CRPSIB) team.
Stephanie joined the CRPSIB team as a research assistant in the spring of 2010, and she is excited to be involved in this project for a fifth and final semester. Stephanie has been fortunate enough to get involved in multiple projects during her time on the research team. She has had a particularly prominent role in a project addressing at what point peers will intervene and seek help for other peers who appear to be in distress. She helped to oversee and participate in all aspects of this project, from organization to final presentations of results. The overarching finding of this study was that students reported they were more likely, when providing assistance for peers, to intervene themselves than to seek outside sources of help and support. It was only after the appearance of clear, physical evidence of a problem that students would seek out counselors, police, or other resources. Stephanie is currently most involved in conducting literature reviews in order to provide an up-to-date, broad summary of what the field has learned about non-suicidal self-injury across the lifespan.
Stephanie is very grateful for the experiences she has had while on the CRPSIB team. She has enjoyed working with and collaborating with dedicated and insightful team members. She has also relished the opportunity to engage in projects independently and to delve into understanding self-injury and mental health topics on a deeper level. Stephanie has particularly fond memories of the multiple opportunities she has had to present findings of her work through poster board and PowerPoint presentations. Starting dialogues with other people about mental health issues and receiving positive feedback about how much they value the importance of improving mental health is by far the most rewarding part of this work. This research is not just theoretical. It has practical implications for making a positive impact upon the greater community.
Outside of her commitments to research and academics, Stephanie is involved on campus as a member and concert manager for the Cornell University Chorus and Jazz Voices. She is also an active sister of Sigma Chi Delta fraternity. Stephanie will graduate in May and is looking forward to beginning medical school in the fall of 2102. Stephanie expects that her experiences as an undergraduate researcher will add sensitivity and appreciation for mental health to her medical practice.
Biological Sciences and Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Michael Smith has been a research assistant in the BCTR for the past two years, working on several projects for ACT for Youth. The project that drew Michael to the center was the Talking with Kids about HIV and AIDS curriculum. This project was Michael’s first exposure to qualitative data coding—a skill he has gotten to master with his continued involvement here at the center. Michael along with four other students conducted data analysis for both the parent and adolescent focus groups for this project and later translated their findings along with recommendations into a paper for the New York State Department of Health. Michael has also contributed to the Lifelong Health focus group project, where he helped to decode what teenagers considered health; PhotoVoice, a project where photography is used to provide agency for those whose voices are often not heard; and the HIV Complementary Strengths Project. The project that has most piqued Michael’s interest has been the Independent Living Survey, a project that analyzed the living circumstances of adolescents without stable housing. After completion of the data analysis, Michael and the team had the opportunity to discuss their findings with some of the participants that this data represented. This real life engagement with the data has been an experience Michael regards as priceless.
Michael is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences. He will be graduating this semester with a BA in Biological Sciences and a BA in Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies (FGSS). Upon entry into Cornell, Michael was determined to get into medical school and become a surgeon, but as he explored more FGSS courses, underwent three semesters of Empathy Assistance & Referral Services training (EARS), participated in diversity-increasing activities such as perspective student hosting with CU Image, and took interest in the projects he has assisted on at the BCTR, he has determined that law and policy may be his calling. He wishes to combine his field interest in health care and social inequalities to pursue medical law.
Currently, Michael is working on the CAPP Evaluation project. He is also deciding between different non-profit/governmental fellowships for his gap year between graduating and law school. He wishes to spend his year out of school teaching for underfunded urban schools to help bridge the education gap or working for a governmental agency where he can have a hands-on experience with the law-producing process.
Deinera has assisted with several projects at the BCTR, including the Nurse Family Partnership study (PI: John Eckenrode) and a project investigating the use of orders of protection by teens in New York State. Deinera's primary project for the past two years has been the Complementary Strengths study (PI: Jennifer Tiffany), where she has assisted with the development of a new measure for assessing youth program participation, and investigated cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships between program participation and adolescent sexual and reproductive health. In the spring of 2012, Deinera will be transitioning to the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior (PI: Janis Whitlock). During her time at the BCTR, Deinera also helped create a translational research database for use by center staff and research associates.
Deinera is a third year doctoral candidate in Human Development. Prior to coming to Cornell, she completed an MPH in Social and Behavioral Science at Boston University (2009), and her BSc in Cellular, Molecular and Microbial Biology at the University of Calgary (2007). Though initially interested in pursuing a career in the biological sciences, while on a research seminar to Botswana in 2006, Deinera became aware of the role non-microbial factors played in a person’s risk for acquiring HIV/AIDS, which abruptly changed her career goals. She was especially interested in the intersection of domestic violence and HIV, and upon her return from Botswana, Deinera began work with Dr. Wilfreda Thurston in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary, researching media framing of domestic homicides in Botswana, and assisting with a longitudinal study on intimate partner violence in the lives of Canadian Aboriginal women. Since the completion of her undergraduate degree, Deinera has remained in the field of interpersonal violence, and expanded her areas of interest to include teen dating violence and sexual assault.
Currently, Deinera is starting work on her doctoral dissertation, which will focus on teen dating violence. The goal of this project is to provide practitioners with an improved understanding of how psychological aggression is used in teen dating relationships, as well as to highlight how depression and substance use may contribute to risk for re-victimization. She is also working on a program evaluation with Gannett Health Services, which will provided needed information to program providers and campus administration on the efficacy of a campus-based sexual assault prevention program.
Upon completion of her doctoral degree, Deinera plans to return to her home country of Canada, where she hopes to work in the public sector as an applied researcher. When she is not working on her degree, Deinera enjoys reading non-school books and exploring Ithaca!