What We’re Working On, Remotely

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Like most academic research groups, we’re working from home these days to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We’re really lucky to be able to continue much of our work from home, and this transition has come with some unique opportunities and challenges. In this post, we share some of what we’re working on lately, and how we’re coping with being away from campus.

Ongoing Research and Response to COVID-19

Our primary ongoing research study, Project WHADE, requires that we meet with participants face-to-face (to take measurements, calibrate physical activity monitors, and get the monitors back when participation is over). For women who were actively participating when Rowan’s campus closed, we were able to set up a mail-in system to get the monitor back, and we conducted exit interviews via phone. But we had to pause recruitment and enrollment of new participants, as the patterns we’re studying are likely to look really different now than they did before March. We hope to start up again over the summer.

Yet, we see this as a unique opportunity to understand more about our patterns of interest. We think they’ve changed, but we won’t know how much or in what ways unless we re-assess them. We’re in the process of inviting previous participants to enroll in “Part 2,” which re-uses remote survey technology to capture daily experiences. We won’t have activity monitor data, but we’re hoping to learn as much as we can about how COVID-19 precautions have affected our participants’s daily lives. Stay tuned for more about this new venture!

In the meantime, we’re doing tons of behind-the-scenes work: 

  • Searching and summarizing existing literature on topics of interest
  • Managing, coding, and analyzing existing data
  • Preparing virtual presentations for the UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Conference (May 14-15, 2020)
  • Drafting professional articles to describe our recent findings 
  • Doing our best to stay healthy and sane

Remote Teamwork

Rowan uses the WebEx platform for virtual meetings, and we’re using these to stay connected. We still have our weekly lab meeting and regular individual meetings with Dr. Arigo, weekly or as needed. For times when we want some company while working on projects, we’ll set up WebEx meetings, allowing us to virtually work alongside each other.

Slack is another tool that we use a lot. It’s a chat platform that allows for communication between individuals and groups, and you can create “channels” for specific topics. Slack gives us the opportunity to ask each other questions and receive answers quickly, and to create various channels where members can share updates about life and work, as well as anything that might help us all stay motivated and upbeat. 

What We’re Reading

For multiple projects related to health among midlife and older adults, including Project WHADE and several lines of inquiry from RowanSOM’s ORANJ BOWL study, we’re reading about physical activity, weight change, pain experiences, and social support in this population:

How We’re Staying Sane

As clinical health psychology/behavioral medicine professionals (in training), we’re trying to practice what we preach to get us through this difficult time. Our most effective methods so far:

  • Kristen: Working on remote tasks outside when the weather allows, getting in a Facebook Live workout whenever I can, virtual game nights with friends, and spending time with/helping out family while I’m temporarily back in Pennsylvania. 
  • Megan: FaceTiming with friends and family, online workouts (3-5 times a week), teaching myself yoga, and starting a new show on Netflix (Outlander).
  • Bernard: Talking and playing videogames with friends online, trying out new things like baking, and reorganizing my entire Spotify playlist and finding new types of music to enjoy.
  • Dr. Arigo: Running outside 3-4 times per week (and walking other days), virtual yoga classes, spending time with my cats, re-watching every season of The Great British Baking Show, and reading for fun (when I’m up to it). (Dani’s personal reading list: The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin, The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson.)
  • Laura: Beginning a morning mindfulness practice, creating a family “Must See” movie list (randomly choosing a title from a jar each week), talking with friends and family either on the phone or FaceTime, getting outside between work tasks.
  • Emily: Working out every morning (even if it’s just a quick, 20-minute workout), going for walks and spending time with my 3-month old, watching new shows at night (recently finished Money Heist and Ozark on Netflix).

Let us know how you’re staying in touch and staying sane these days – we’re always looking for tips!

Meet @RowanCHASELab: Interview with Undergraduate RA Bernard Kwiatek

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Bernard is a junior at Rowan who has worked with the CHASE team since Fall 2019. He was interviewed by postdoctoral fellow Cole Ainsworth.

RowanCHASE Lab: Let’s start off with the basics! Tell us about your undergraduate experience and how you were introduced to psychology research.

BK: Coming into college, I had no idea undergrads could help with research like this. It was only at the end of my second year that my advisor told me that this was a potential opportunity. 

RowanCHASE Lab: What initially got you excited to work in the CHASE lab as a research assistant?

BK: I was initially excited to just experience research. I had no idea what to expect and really wanted to try it out and see if it was something that I would enjoy or not.

RowanCHASE Lab: What are some valuable skills you have learned while working in the CHASE lab?

BK: I’ve learned how to effectively search for and dissect scientific papers in order to cite or learn from it, which was something that took me forever before I started working with a research team. I’m also pretty good at coding data now – I can do it quickly with very few mistakes, which is useful for a lot of other work I might do.

RowanCHASE Lab: What is some advice you would give other students at Rowan interested in pursuing a research assistant position?

BK: Get started as early as possible, even if you don’t think you’ll be qualified. The earlier you start, the more time you have to train and be more effective in future years. Think of it like reserving your spot for the future.

RowanCHASE Lab: Lastly, what are your plans after you graduate and how will working in the CHASE lab support your future endeavors?

BK: I plan to attend graduate school and continue on with research after that. CHASE lab is a big part in helping me reach that goal because it has already provided me with contacts, experience, and advice from co workers on how to look appealing to graduate schools all over.