This summer, through the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships’ Summer Undergraduate Research Group Grant, I had the opportunity to take on the role of Research Assistant and Research Coordinator with Dr. Jianghong Liu in the Family and Community Health department in the School of Nursing. My cohort of research assistants was primarily focused on a pilot study conducted by Dr. Liu – “Omega-3 Fatty Acid Nutritional Intervention Study.”
The main goal of this study is to determine the effects of omega-3, a type of fatty acid commonly found in fish oil, on mother-child relationships, behavior, and health. Omega-3 has been proven to have significant effects on neurodevelopment in children. While these fatty acids are not produced by the human body, they support the growth and lifespan of nervous system cells. Our hypothesis was that an increased intake of omega-3 would decrease childhood behavior problems in the long-term. This assertion was studied via an intervention. Both mother and child would consume a nutritional supplement drink daily for a month and a half, and the mother-child relationship, participant health, and child behavior would be monitored through cognitive assessment tasks and self-reported surveys. These measures were taken at the baseline date (right before the nutritional intervention), as soon as the intervention concluded, and about a month or two post-intervention to assess the long-term effects of omega-3.
Through this first experience in clinical research, I gained general research skills and learned a lot about research design. Because of various scheduled group trainings, I was able to better understand conducting literature reviews and analyzing research articles as well as to learn about confounding variables, conducting a double-blind research study, and recruitment methods. More generally, I was able to expand upon my interpersonal skills through the many facets of this role. As this study was a team effort, communication among research assistants was key. Secondly, through conducting participant interviews, I became better at interacting both with older adults and younger children. Finally, on the coordinator side, I was challenged to ask for guidance from the various administration within the School of Nursing to work out the logistical, organizational, and administrative tasks necessary to ensure that the study was run smoothly.
Because of the challenges that pushed me to grow in my interpersonal skills, this summer position has provided a great contribution to my educational experience. I am more confident in embracing tasks in which I have not had experience completing. Additionally, due to the participant demographic of this study, I am assured in my desire to pursue working with children in the future. Finally, I am eager to continue working for Dr. Liu on this and other projects in this upcoming year.