ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT | NOVEMBER 2015
KU major: Athletic Training, Class of 2004
Current occupation: Program Evaluation Manager at Alliance for a Healthier Generation
Research mentors while at KU: Bryan Smith and Joe Donnelly
Describe the undergraduate research experience that you had while at KU: I was an undergraduate research assistant in the Energy Balance Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Donnelly, where I worked on adult and pediatric weight management projects. This experience introduced me to the field of weight management and led me to pursue a graduate degree in public health so that I could continue my work in the field. I also received a travel award that allowed me to present an abstract on late-night eating and weight gain at a national conference.
Q: What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?
A: The most important lesson I learned while working with Dr. Smith and Dr. Donnelly was to ask questions and think critically. These skills are universal and will transcend any career path you may choose after graduation.
Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates who might be interested in doing research or creative scholarship?
A: As with so many other opportunities in college, undergraduate research is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to "try on" new skills and experiences. Don't be afraid to ask questions or to ask for an opportunity to practice a hands-on skill because you think you'll look stupid for not knowing. You're at a point in life where the expectations are lower and nobody is judging you.
Q: Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation? How so?
A: Yes, in my current job I do program evaluations for a nonprofit focused on childhood obesity. We are an evidence-based program that relies on the type of research that I was assisting with in college. Additionally, evaluation is similar in many ways to research, so there are a number of research methods skills that I use daily.
Q: Many undergraduate researchers are making decisions about what to do after they graduate from KU. Having been in those shoes, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? Do you have any advice?
A: Use your time in school to network and form relationships with your research mentors as well as with your fellow undergraduate researchers. All of my career opportunities after graduation have been due to my ability to showcase my skills and knowledge and to my ability to leverage my network.