Lauren Heniff ‘22 shared her research project “‘I was working out daily prior to COVID’: Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Physical Health of Purdue Graduate Students” at this year’s Spring Undergraduate Research Conference. In the Life Sciences category, her abstract secured the top award. Lauren gave us some insight into her research journey and presenting during the Conference which we are excited to share!
OUR: What did you research and why?
Lauren: My research focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the physical health of graduate students. This topic is important because reported physical health has an impact on many different facets of a person’s life and well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted a lot of peoples’ health routines and this research helps to highlight the impact this has had.
OUR: Who has mentored you and how have they supported you in your research experience?
Lauren: Dr. Nilupa Gunaratna, Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health, and Morgan Boncyk, a graduate student, have been two of my biggest mentors through this research process. My research mentors helped me understand the framework of the research process which was extremely helpful in constructing my abstract. One of the biggest initial barriers for me was understanding what an abstract is supposed to look like. Both Morgan and Dr.Gunaratna have been extremely helpful in guiding me through the process and providing me with examples to help me better learn how to do research.
OUR: How long have you been conducting research and what have you learned from it?
Lauren: This is my third semester conducting research in Dr. Gunaratna’s lab. I have learned a lot about how important it is to work as a team. Everyone in the lab has unique skill sets and we are a very supportive group. Learning about the collaboration involved in the research process and listening to feedback has helped me grow in my abilities.
OUR: How did you get started in research and how has it benefited your college career?
During the fall of my sophomore year, I interviewed Dr. Gunaratna for an honors contract project. Her research sounded really interesting to me and I ended up joining her lab the following semester. Doing research gives you a lot of insight into the scientific process which is helpful in a lot of different careers. It also gave me a lot of mentors and peers who I can lean on as I move through college and onto grad school.
OUR: How does research support your future goals?
Lauren: Currently, my plan is to go on to medical school. I am interested in pursuing an MD/Master’s of Public Health path. This research work has given me skills that I will be able to apply to my future goals of working in the intersection of medicine and public health.
OUR: What was it like to present at the Spring Undergraduate Research Conference?
Lauren: It was a little nerve-wracking. My original voiceover recording was accidentally deleted and so I had to re-record my slides last minute. However, I really enjoyed seeing this project come together and being able to look back on all the progress I have made.