“Productivity” In Year 2 of the Pandemic

Standard

As the COVID-19 pandemic and remote work continue into a second year, our team has been thinking more deeply about “productivity.”. What has changed about our work challenges, and what works to overcome them? How do we stay focused and energized after all this time at home? Our lab members share their thoughts in this post.

Images via canva.com.

Laura (2nd-year clinical psychology Ph.D. student): I’ve found working remotely has been both challenging and rewarding. I definitely appreciate the opportunity to spend more time with family now, so remote work has definitely been rewarding in that sense. However, there is no longer a strict boundary (such as a commute) between work and home. I’ve found that this allows me to work much longer hours than I originally anticipate. Some tricks I use to manage this challenge are switching chairs or rooms when moving on to a new task (e.g., courses vs. lab work) and setting a strict stopping point at the end of the day

Emily (1st-year school psychology Masters student): With working from home, I have come to realize how easily distracted I can be, even by the smallest things. To help improve my productivity I have found it best to try and eliminate my biggest distraction: my phone. Turning my phone on silent and keeping it out of sight so I don’t see notifications popping up has helped me to stay focused. Another trick I have found to be helpful is scheduling my most important tasks to be done while my daughter naps. Giving myself that time restriction, and creating a goal to finish it before she wakes up, has really helped me to stay motivated and be productive. 

Kristen E (2nd-year undergraduate RA): On certain days, the pandemic has made me feel as though I have all the time in the world, and that I can push things off until tomorrow. Giving myself deadlines for projects, assignments, and homework has helped me keep more of a schedule to hold myself accountable for completing work. Sticking to a schedule of action for each day has really helped me not only to stay productive throughout the day, but also to assure myself that I am staying on track with all my work. I have found that assigning a day of the week for specific kinds of tasks has made it much easier to keep track of what is done and helps create a general sense of how much more work is required by the end of the week so I can plan accordingly. 

Megan (1st-year clinical psychology Ph.D. student): I have realized while working from home that I have not been getting as much movement/activity in as I would if I were on campus, which has resulted in feeling fatigued after sitting at my table all day doing work. Lately I have been making it a point to set time during the evening to workout, and I added a setting on my Fitbit that reminds me to get up a move around during the day. I found that by getting in small bursts of movement throughout the day and setting time aside for exercise, I have felt more energized, which has helped me become more productive with research/coursework. 

Heather (4th-year undergraduate RA): I love working from home, but I do find that I am sitting more and not breaking up my day with other activities as much as I used to. I have a timer on my Apple Watch that I work with now to remind myself to get up, stretch, and do breathing exercises. This helps keep my muscles from stiffening up, especially my hips. Plus it helps with correcting my posture. It has been nice to reset and refresh. When the weather permits I also make sure I have the windows open a bit for air circulation. However, it has been quite cold lately so I will change rooms in the house to sit in the sun while I work.  Being in the sun has helped me with my mood, which helps me stay on track with my projects and classes.  I would say the biggest challenge I have from working at home is that I feel like I have more time and have actually given myself more projects and work to do.  It is definitely challenging my time management skills.  Breaking my day up with sun, fresh air, and physical activity keeps positive and constructive.

Bernard (4th-year undergraduate RA): Working from home is great, but there are a lot of downsides to it. The biggest roadblock in my productivity are all the little distractions that occur, such as people checking in on me during work or any notifications I get through my phone/computer. Before all this, it was easy to focus on work and stay productive because there was a transition from home to work, but now not so much. So what I’ve been doing to help this is bring that transition back. Before I go focus on work I make sure to move my laptop from my room to my workstation, dress nice, and silence my phone as well as put it in an inconvenient spot to get to; for example, in another room. This helps me to minimize distractions as well as focus on work.

Kristen P (3rd-year clinical psychology Ph.D. student): One of the most significant barriers for my productivity thus far during the pandemic restrictions has been maintaining structure for the various work responsibilities and those in my personal life. Before COVID-19, I trained myself to associate certain environmental cues with the tasks I should be doing. For example, the majority of research was done in the lab, all treatment notes and planning were done in the clinic. Tasks were compartmentalized, and above all I required social stimuli to keep myself accountable. Since the beginning of working from home, I have to put much more effort into maintaining structure and social accountability. This initially looked like trial and error, but have found a few core things to work: using my calendar more intentionally (adding activities including exercise, cooking, sending emails), setting certain places of my home as work areas, and planning Zoom work sessions to keep socially accountable

Samuel (4th-year undergraduate RA): Working from home has been an exciting new experience! While working from home I don’t have to worry about the commute to work and I get to work in the comfort of my own home. This has many benefits, but it has its drawbacks. I find it very easy to lose focus and once I lose my focus, I find it very hard to get it back. To help myself stay focused I came up with a few methods and one of these methods is setting hourly goals. This helps me stay on task and gives me something to work towards to keep me moving in the right direction. Another method I came up with is after I finish my hourly goals, I reward myself with a walk around my house just to stretch my legs. Having a goal and rewarding myself when I complete it helps me stay focused and motivates me to complete my next hourly goal.

Cole (postdoctoral fellow/lab manager): Distractions are hard to avoid while working at home around my young daughter. Communication with my spouse has really helped with productivity. Things like putting meetings on the calendar on our fridge keeps us both in the loop about my work schedule, which also helps with planning brief breaks to stretch my legs, change a diaper, check my phone, etc. I also have a dedicated space for work (no non-work allowed) and avoid working elsewhere in my home. Associating that space with work helps me shift my focus to work-related items more easily when starting the day or returning from a break.

Dr. Dani (lab director): I always avoided working from home, for the reasons that others have outlined here – too many distractions, like wanting to play with my cats instead of focus. But I’m lucky to have a home office, and working from home has given me justification to upgrade to ergonomically supportive furniture and computing tools. More importantly, as the faculty mentor and director for the CHASE lab, I think a lot about setting appropriate and reasonable expectations. How do we define “productivity” under these ongoing circumstances, and what should our expectations be for progress on our work? How can we gently push everyone to accomplish their goals while not adding undue pressure? I certainly haven’t figured it out yet, but the team has done an amazing job over the past year, and I’m so impressed with their commitment and creativity. Keeping my fingers crossed that it will be safe to have an in-person gathering to celebrate the end of an unusual and exciting academic year.

CHASE Lab Annual Report for 2020

Standard

It’s been a busy and difficult year, so it’s especially important that we recognize and celebrate our hard work and accomplishments. Here is a summary of our group’s activities for the year:

In addition, members passed important milestones in their training:

  • Cole Ainsworth (Postdoctoral Fellow) took over as lab manager and taught his first online courses.
  • Kristen Pasko (3rd-Year Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Student) successfully defended her Master’s thesis and received her M.A. degree. She also submitted her findings as an abstract to the Society of Behavioral Medicine’s virtual annual meeting (SBM) a submitted a separate, first-authored manuscript for publication.
  • Laura Travers (2nd-Year Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Student) successfully proposed her Master’s thesis and submitted a first-authored abstract to SBM.
  • Megan Brown (1st-Year Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Student) transitioned from research coordinator/lab manager to graduate student. She also received approval for her first-year research project and submitted a first-authored abstract to SBM.
  • Emily Vendetta (1st-Year School Psychology Master’s Student) transitioned from undergraduate to graduate research assistant and used her CHASE Lab experience to design a strong research proposal for a class.
  • Bernard Kwiatek (Senior Undergraduate Research Assistant) determined his desired career path and started planning for graduate training in mental health counseling.
  • Heather Mulvenna and Sam Hart (Senior Undergraduate Work Study Students) became invaluable assets to the CHASE Lab and started planning for their next steps.

Finally, Dr. Dani Arigo (Lab Director) received a Short-Term Research Travel Grant from the Humboldt Centre of International Excellence to conduct a collaborative project with a host at the University of Bayreuth in Germany (Dr. Laura König). Public safety conditions permitting, she will travel to Bayreuth to work on this project in Summer 2021.

Happy New Year from the CHASE Lab!

Keeping Busy During a Pandemic: CHASE Lab’s Current Activities

Standard

It’s been a while since we posted, and we wanted to share some of the research activities we’ve been working on and what we’ve been learning about this fall. See here for more about our team and visit the linked pages below to read interviews with specific team members. (No link for a particular person? Stay tuned for upcoming interviews with them!)

So what have we been up to this fall?

Remote meetings continue! Here we are at our Halloween celebration – some of us got into the holiday spirit.

COLE (Postdoctoral Fellow/Lab Manager): I’ve been preparing research materials for a new project on midlife adults’ responses to physical activity messages. I’ve also monitored the completion of an online survey about perceptions of social media among adults with type 1 diabetes, and I’ve been developing a blog post and infographic for our soon-to-be published study on the physical activity intentions of college women. These recent activities contribute to my goal of strengthening my skills related to project management and science communication. 

HEATHER (Work Study Student/Undergraduate Research Assistant): I have been searching and compiling research articles using online databases, which has allowed me practice techniques I learned in a previous research methods course (e.g., keyword combination). Developing this skill has allowed me to better contribute to the CHASE Lab’s projects and will help me with my own future research. It has also exposed me to a variety of study designs and helped me learn about different approaches to answering research questions. I have also become more familiar with the style of academic writing, which will be useful when writing my own papers during graduate school and beyond.

LAURA (2nd-Year Ph.D. Student): I am working on my thesis project, which examines relations between PTSD and pain among older adults. I am also in the very beginning stages of an additional project about the connection between pain and social comparison. Hopefully, there is more to come as the year progresses, but I’ve been learning strategies that have helped with my scientific writing (such as outlining for structure, task prioritization, and how to consolidate feedback from multiple people).

BERNARD (Undergraduate Research Assistant): I have been searching for and reading articles about text messaging and physical activity, to help direct a related study we’re preparing for. I’ve also spent time brainstorming new messages that can be used in an app or website to motivate others to be more physically active.

KRISTEN (3rd-Year Ph.D. Student): I recently revisited a project that examines associations between social media platform use and health behaviors of college students, and we just submitted the manuscript for publication. I’ve also been preparing for a related project that is a candidate for my dissertation, focused on developing a self report measure of social media use for clinical settings.

SAM (Work Study Student/Undergraduate Research Assistant): I have learned so much working with the CHASE Lab this semester, such as how to navigate different online databases like Google Scholar and ProQuest to find relevant research papers and extract information from them. I have also learned ways to use that information to develop materials for studies we are planning in the lab. Being able to meet and talk with people at different stages of their careers has given me a better understanding of how to prepare for graduate school.

MEGAN (1st-Year Ph.D. Student): I’ve been working on my thesis proposal, which I will present during my first year as a Ph.D. student. The study will examine the relation between social physique anxiety (or anxiety about having one’s body evaluated by others) and physical activity among women at risk for cardiovascular disease. I will also explore other factors that influence this relation. Throughout my time developing and writing this proposal, I have learned new skills which have helped strengthen my scientific writing.  

EMILY (1st-Year Masters Student): Lately I’ve been brainstorming content for a tool that will support physical activity engagement for inactive midlife adults. I also have been reviewing research on text message interventions to help promote physical activity. My time in the lab reviewing and learning more about research has helped prepare me for my Masters program. I feel confident in my classes this Fall knowing how to find quality, well-written research articles for my papers. 

Meet @RowanCHASELab: Post-Transition Interview with Megan Brown

Standard

Megan was the CHASE Lab research coordinator from 2018-2020. She is now a first-year Ph.D. student in Rowan’s Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program and a graduate research assistant with the CHASE Lab. She was interviewed by second-year Ph.D. student Laura Travers.

Rowan CHASE Lab: Let’s start off with a broad question. When did you first know you wanted to focus on the field of psychology?

MB: Well, I was actually a biology major my first year of my undergraduate career here at Rowan. I really just didn’t feel passionate about it, and it wasn’t until I took a course in the essentials of psychology that I started to become interested in the field. Then, after I took my research methods course, I realized that I wanted to pursue the psychology field through research. I decided to switch to a B.S. in psychological science and minor in neuroscience. This training led me to the position of research coordinator in the CHASE Lab. Being a research coordinator really solidified my desire to continue to pursue research in psychology and apply to the Ph.D. Clinical Psychology program at Rowan.

Rowan CHASE Lab: What made you choose to work with CHASE lab and to have Dr. Arigo as your mentor?

MB: I chose to apply to the CHASE lab because my research interests (looking at relations between mental and physical health) aligned extremely well to the research being done in this lab. Having firsthand experience while being a part of the CHASE group also helped me realize how well I worked with everyone in the lab, and how much I enjoyed and valued Dr. Arigo’s mentoring style.

Rowan CHASE Lab: How has the transition from CHASE Lab research coordinator to first-year Ph.D. student been so far?

MB: Well due to COVID-19, all of our courses are currently online, so the first week was spent getting adjusted to a new style of learning. However, being a research coordinator helped hone my time management skills, which I am definitely using now. I’m still getting used to my new role as a Ph.D. student and graduate research assistant rather than a coordinator, but I’m sure I will get into the hang of things as the semester progresses.

Rowan CHASE Lab: Could you tell us about your research experience so far? What do you think has helped you be a good researcher?

MB: One positive aspect of being a research coordinator for the past two years is that I’ve been exposed to multiple research projects, which used different designs and implementation strategies. I have also been able to develop informal clinical skills, contribute to writing papers, and collaborate with colleagues and peers. And as I mentioned, I really do think that developing time management skills has helped me be a good researcher. Another skill that has helped is having experience communicating with people in various positions and roles both within and outside of the lab (e.g., participants, physicians, faculty, etc.).

Rowan CHASE Lab: What are your current research interests? Have they changed now that you have entered the Ph.D. program?

MB: Since starting with the CHASE Lab two years ago, my research interests have changed a bit. When I began, I was much more focused on mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Then I found interest in health behaviors (e.g., physical activity engagement), and my research interests now include the etiology and treatment of stress and anxiety. I also have interests in the impact of social influences and interactions on body image and health behaviors, as well as the implementation of mindfulness-based interventions and integrated health care. Currently, I am looking at the relation between social physique anxiety and physical activity patterns among midlife women at risk for cardiovascular disease.

Rowan CHASE Lab: What are some goals you have for yourself for your first year as a Ph.D. student with the CHASE lab?

MB: My goals for this year are in the domain of professional development, such as increasing networking and becoming more comfortable with public speaking. I also would like to continue contributing to team projects and papers, and I look forward to working with Dr. Arigo on developing my analytical and research skills.

CHASE Lab Plays Work From Home Bingo

Standard

We’ve now been working from home for almost eight weeks, and although our tips to stay sane and productive have worked well, we’re still itching for some new ways to connect with each other and infuse some new energy into our work. A few weeks ago, lab member Bernard Kwiatek (junior Psychology major) suggested that we all play Work From Home Bingo, using a bingo card he made. 

We selected a date (Tuesday, 4/28) and everyone kept track on their bingo card. At our lab meeting that week (Thursday, 4/30), we discussed the activity as a group. Although Dr. Arigo was the only one to get BINGO, we had a lot of fun using a new way to track and share our work experiences with each other. Check out what our members had to say about it:

  • Megan: I really enjoyed playing this game, and it made me laugh realizing how many of the boxes I was able to relate to. I think it’s especially important right now to have lighthearted activities like this to do during the day, which may help take your mind off of other serious matters.  
  • Emily: It was fun reading through the board and I’d get so excited when I could mark off a square. It was a nice little break to take during work hours. 
  • Kristen: I tried to check off the board at the end of the day so that I didn’t influence my chances, and unfortunately, I did not get BINGO. But, it was still a fun activity to do during lab hours that made me smile, which goes a long way during these difficult times. 
  • Cole: This was the only time in my professional career that I had wished for technical difficulties to happen (so I could mark it on my bingo card). Sadly, my laptop performed perfectly that day. Despite not winning, it was an entertaining break from my usual work routine.
  • Laura: It was the perfect distraction throughout the day and served as a nice reminder to not take things so seriously. 
  • Bernard: Going through the day and trying to hit each spot was a hectic but in a good way. It’s interesting seeing what spots I usually hit normally than if I could potentially fill the entire board.

Want to play along, or make your own bingo board? Visit Bingo Baker!

What We’re Working On, Remotely

Standard

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

Standard

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.

MEET @ROWANCHASELAB: Interview with Kristen Pasko

Standard

Kristen Pasko is a second-year student in Rowan’s clinical psychology Ph.D. program, and she’s been with CHASE Lab since 2014. She was interviewed by first-year Ph.D. student and lab member Laura Travers.

@RowanCHASELab: Let’s start off with a broad question. When did you first know you wanted to focus on the field of psychology?

KP: I think my first recollection of wanting to be in this field came at the end of high school. At that point, I had seen the impact that mental illness could have on others around me – how it could truly prevent individuals from doing what they wanted in life. I decided that at the very least, I wanted to be a mental health advocate.

@RowanCHASELab: What made you choose to work with the CHASE lab and to have Dr. Arigo as your mentor?

KP: I actually have quite a bit of history with CHASE. Dr. Arigo has been my mentor since my sophomore year at The University of Scranton. I began working with her as a research assistant, then as her research coordinator after graduation. At that point, I fell in love with health psychology from everything I learned from her in that lab. When it came time to apply for graduate school, she brought my attention to Rowan University’s Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology for its emphasis in health psychology and integrated healthcare. Little did I know that she would get a job offer at Rowan around the same time. I was fortunate enough to interview with Dr. Arigo and had the realization that many of my research interests were borne out of my very training with her, and that she was the best fit for a grad mentor.

@RowanCHASELab: Could you tell us about your research experience so far? What you think has helped you be a good researcher?

KP: One of my favorite things about research is that it feeds my never-ending curiosity. I’ve always thought about the process like completing a puzzle. There are so many pieces missing and it takes a great amount of focus, dedication, and curiosity to collect pieces to understand the bigger picture. Once one piece is found, then you have a clue about the next piece. Once one research question is answered, you’re left with the next question.

Focusing on enjoying this process has been important. Much of the time, research can feel drawn out, and setting little goals for yourself can provide that small reward. One of the biggest takeaways for my personal success has been to force myself to engage in constant critical thinking. As a researcher, there has to be a reason why you’re studying that specific topic, with that specific method to answer that specific research question.

@RowanCHASELab: What are your research interests? How have they changed from your undergraduate career to now?

KP: That’s actually a bit of a loaded question! Much of my initial work focused on health behavior and social influence broadly. Towards the end of my undergraduate career and time as a research coordinator, I realized that my true interest lies in health behavior within the context of chronic illness and how social influences through family, friends, and other individuals with illness directly and indirectly help and hinder healthy behavior.

@RowanCHASELab: What professional goals do you have for yourself this year?

KP: For the remainder of my second year in the Ph.D. program, I hope to push myself to even higher levels of quality and efficiency in my work. I also want to remember to enjoy myself.

@RowanCHASELab: How has what you’ve learned so far affected your plans for after graduate school?

KP: I have many answers for this. However, one of the biggest things is giving myself time to meet my long-term goals. I have so many research ideas that I am itching to pursue now, but a career in clinical psychology means lifelong learning. Trying to do everything at once usually means that you don’t do anything well. So I want to pace myself and see how each step informs the next.

Meet @RowanCHASELab: Interview with Laura Travers

Standard

Laura Travers is a first-year Ph.D. student in clinical psychology. She has a Master’s degree in health psychology from University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. She was interviewed by research assistant Emily Vendetta.

@RowanCHASELab: Let’s start off with the basics! Tell us about how you were introduced to the field of health psychology.

LT: It was an interesting turn of events. I didn’t actually know that health psychology existed as a field until my junior year of undergrad, when we had a guest speaker in one of our psychology courses. She was a health psychologist who helped initiate a health coaching program with one of the local hospitals. I participated in the program, and from then on I was hooked. 

@RowanCHASELab: Could you describe your previous research experience and what you think helps to make a good researcher? 

LT: I’m interested in so many topics, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing at times. My main projects during my Masters program were looking at the impact of the collaborative working relationship between a provider and pharmacist on patients receiving medication assisted treatment (MAT), examining the policy associated with implementing the Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax in Philadelphia, and conducting a systematic review of the literature on comorbid chronic pain and PTSD.  I think what helps make a good researcher is acceptance of failure. Failing to support a hypothesis can still be a success within research, and it is always a learning experience.

@RowanCHASELab: What are your current research interests, and how have they changed from your undergraduate career to now? 

LT: It’s tough to narrow it down, but my main focus now is on chronic pain and PTSD. My interests changed dramatically from my undergraduate career until now. During my junior year of undergrad, I worked in a neurophysiology lab recording crayfish action potentials. My senior year, I examined the effect of increased levels of caffeine on anxiety and learning in rats. Through these experiences, I discovered animal research models are just not for me. Luckily, it was also during my senior year that I became a health coach, and this experience is what really solidified my desire to work in health psychology. 

@RowanCHASELab: What initially made you want to work with the CHASE lab and have Dr. Arigo as your mentor?

LT: I was interested in working with the CHASE team to learn more about social comparisons, and there is a wide array of research opportunities due to the multiple ongoing studies in the lab. I specifically wanted to have Dr. Arigo as my mentor because she is able to find opportunities for me to pursue my specific interests and to have much broader learning experiences. 

@RowanCHASELab: What are some goals you have for yourself while you’re pursuing your clinical psychology Ph.D.?

LT: I wanted to o learn how to effectively analyze research data and how to convey our findings to both the academic field and the general public. 

@RowanCHASELab: What do you want to do with your Ph.D. when you finish graduate school? 

LT: I’m hoping to continue conducting academic research, but I also want to work within a hospital setting practicing and promoting integrated care. I’d like to eventually achieve a balance between research and practice, where I will have the opportunity to apply the research I’m doing within the field, while also relaying its success, or failure, to the academic community. 

Meet @RowanCHASE Lab: Interview with Postdoctoral Fellow Cole Ainsworth

Standard

Dr. Ainsworth has a Ph.D. in Health Promotion and Health Behavior (Public Health) from the University of Alabama, Birmingham. He was interviewed by Ph.D. student Kristen Pasko.

@RowanCHASELAB: Could we start with you telling us a bit about yourself? Where are you from? What are some hobbies you have?

CA: Sure! I come to the CHASE lab from the great state of Alabama, and I received my Ph.D. training at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Earning that degree has been one of my only activities in the last few years, but I am looking forward to picking up where I left off with other hobbies like reading, roller skating, and the occasional online gaming shenanigans.

@RowanCHASELAB: How would you describe your undergraduate experience? How did that lead to your graduate experience?

CA: My undergraduate experience didn’t follow a single path. In fact, I started college as a vocal performance music major! After realizing that I probably would not become a world-famous vocalist in musical theater, I sought other professional interests and ended up majoring in psychology. It gave me a foundational understanding of human behavior, which is what really drew me to the field in the first place. Still unsure of what specific career to pursue, I took a couple of courses in public health and ended up loving it so much I applied to a related master’s program.

@RowanCHASELAB: Continuing with that theme, you received your Ph.D. in health education and promotion. Can you tell us about the perspective this field has regarding applications of research and how you believe your training within this field adds a different and new perspective to our lab?

CA: I find there is quite a bit of overlap between research conducted in the areas of public health education/health promotion and psychology. For one, both are interested in behaviors that affect human health and research generally seeks to improve health outcomes by helping people realize opportunities for behavior change. As you may have guessed, public health tends to place value on understanding how to affect change at both the individual and population levels. My training has reflected the art of balancing these two – sometimes competing – levels of influence, essentially maximizing the benefits for as many people as possible.

@RowanCHASELAB: You’ve had previous experience working at MD Anderson Cancer Center as a graduate intern. That sounds like an amazing opportunity. What are some of the more unique opportunities you got working at that facility?

CA: My time as an intern at MD Anderson Cancer Center was great. I assisted with projects focused on lifestyle medicine for women in remission for certain types of cancer. First, it allowed me to see for myself how a research lab with multiple related projects actually operates. It also gave me a chance to expand my understanding of the ways mental practices like mindfulness and other behaviors like physical activity and nutrition can be modified to improve cancer-related outcomes. Lastly, I got to take the initiative on several projects, such as developing a protocol for using new physical activity assessment software and creating a price breakdown of the dietary component for one of the studies.

@RowanCHASELAB: What initially got you excited to work in the CHASE lab as a postdoctoral fellow?

CA: Dr. Arigo is doing a lot of really cool research related to social comparison in the CHASE lab. I think social comparison is a powerful tool at the disposal of health professionals, but we need to better learn how to leverage it in order to create meaningful digital health programs and interventions. The CHASE lab is a trailblazer with respect to that belief, and I am already learning so much from the brief time I have been here.

@RowanCHASELAB: What is some valuable advice you would give to students at Rowan looking to pursue a career in research?

CA: Pursuing a career in research will challenge you in many ways as an individual, but I have never looked back and regretted the path it has led me down. Don’t be afraid to be wrong. Research is often about pursuing the unknown, and even our most informed guesses about a phenomenon can be off.  In addition, a healthy sense of skepticism can go a long way in a research setting if communicated appropriately. Finally, don’t limit yourself from the start. Take time to think about how your interests – while seemingly unrelated – can tell you something new about the world if you put them together.

@RowanCHASELAB: What is it you are hoping to get out of your experience here in the CHASE lab? Any specific projects you are excited to have a hand in?

CA: I hope to develop new skills during my time in the CHASE lab. My training to date has focused on physical activity and cancer prevention intervention, and I am excited to learn more about the process of developing digital health tools and how to improve the user experience to promote long-term engagement in positive health behaviors. Project WHADE (women’s health study) is definitely one that has my attention because of the way smartphones are being used to capture the effects of timing and social comparison on health behaviors like physical activity.

@RowanCHASELAB: Lastly, what are your plans for after you leave this lab, and how will the skills you learned in the CHASE lab help you in your future endeavors?

CA: I am never ever leaving this lab! Joking aside, I really want to take my experience and interest in communication, human behavior, and digital technology and develop solutions to the problems facing our world today. That plan could come to fruition in many ways, via institutional research, consulting, or even entrepreneurship. I am keeping an open mind about it. My appointment as a postdoctoral fellow in the CHASE lab has allowed me ample opportunities to hone the research skills I began learning during my graduate training. Even more, I am gaining exposure to the duties of an independent research scientist like mentorship and project management. I have no doubt that whatever the future holds, my time in the CHASE lab will serve as a momentous stepping stone in the right direction.