Student Spotlight – Lilly Angel

Meet UCLA undergraduate researcher Lilly Angel!

Lilly Angel majors in American Literature and Culture and minors in Chicano/Central American Studies and is in our Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF)! The title of her project is “Radical Love & Solidarity: Reading the Families of the Incarcerated.” She focuses on how her research will help change the way society looks at the incarcerated and the practices within the prison industrial complex. Her best piece of advice is to do what sets you off, not what people “think” you should do.

How did you first get interested in your research project?

Through AAP’s summer transfer program; shout out to Professors San Juan and Huehls.

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

Seeing it come to life. I went from thinking I could never do research or even understand HOW research in English could exist to now slowly create connections and applying it to a project close to my heart.

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

How non linear it truly is! I’m use to having things set up in a plan, but I’ve had to learn to be comfortable with not knowing and enjoying the process.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research?

Do what sets you off. Follow that path, don’t go for what people “think” you should study.

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

I hope my research in addition to being the basis for continuing into graduate school will help change the way society looks at the incarcerated and their incarcerated in addition to the practices within the prison industrial complex.

Student Spotlight – Desiree Eshraghi

Meet UCLA undergraduate researcher Desiree Eshraghi!

Desiree Eshraghi majors in Psychobiology and minors in Disability Studies and is in our Undergraduate Research Fellows Program (URFP). The title of her project is “Disability and Heat: Physiological and Social Disparities in Regards to Heat Exposure.” She hopes to expand people’s perspective of disability by providing insight into the complexity of the subject. Her best piece of advice is to pursue what interests you!

How did you first get interested in your research project?

Growing up in the sunny San Fernando valley can be tough. Constantly sweating, the inescapable threat of sunburn, and burning hot asphalt. Heat in California is undoubtedly a serious public health issue. However, even as a child, I distinguished the difference in experience and needs my brother, who is autistic and epileptic, had in response to the heat compared to mine. Overt exhaustion, especially heat exhaustion, could trigger a seizure.

I was reminded of these stark differences in heat protection and thermal comfort between my brother and I when joined Dr. Venkat’s Heat Lab. There, we seek to explore the interdisciplinary ways heat interacts with community health such as through physiological means, sociological means, etc. As I decided to pursue my minor in Disability Studies, I also chose to pursue this research topic in the Heat Lab.

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

Seeing just how interconnected my research is to so many fields is beyond exciting, let alone the real-world applications to improving heat protection guidelines to better protect the disability community. Research regardless of field is so interdisciplinary and interactive, ever-expanding in unexpected and exciting ways!

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

It has surprised me to what degree disability is obscured or euphemized in research – making it quite more difficult to find relevant disability research. “Comorbidities”, “Pre-existing conditions”, “rehabilitation”: all these words refer to some form of disability (even temporary) yet are not often considered so by the general population or advanced search engines. This revealed to me the precision and determination needed to seek out relevant literature in regards to my research topic.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research?

Pursue your interests and in time, you will find how it applies to your career field. As an aspiring physician, it may be surprising to see me become an Undergraduate Researcher Fellow through HASS, but it’s been an undeniably profound experience so far that is sure to aid me in my future medical career. Everything interconnects, and my research into the disability community and community health in general will surely prepare me in better understanding the backgrounds and special circumstances of all my future patients. Similarly, if you find yourself going against the grain in regards to your career field pathway, be sure to explore it the fullest!

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

I hope my research will push our Bruin and LA community at large to be more inclusive and accessible to all members of their community. Furthermore, I hope this research expands people’s perspectives into how we see disability and that it is much more complex than a straightforward medical diagnosis or as only a response to our built environment.

Student Spotlight – Maggie Dent

Meet UCLA undergraduate researcher Maggie Dent!

Maggie Dent majors in Global Studies and minors in Global Health and is in our Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP). The title of her project is “Gendered Care Work Migration: Nursing and Globalization.” She focuses on what it means to be a care worker in our globalized world. Her best piece of advice is to take your project one step at a time!

How did you first get interested in your research project?

I first encountered the idea of gendered care work migration in my Introduction to Global Studies class during my Sophomore year. It was an idea that stuck with me because I immediately related to the idea, yet I had never had a term to describe the concept. As I looked more into it, I became enthralled with how relevant it was to my everyday life, yet it was so overlooked. Nurses, nannies, cleaners, sex workers: these are all care workers and many of them are immigrant women. As a Global Studies student I wanted to explore how larger patterns of interconnection have fostered the growth of a so-called “care economy” and the ethical dilemmas that come with extracting care from other countries. My interest in Global Health led me to focus on nurses as care workers and how the Global North has come to rely on foreign-born and foreign-trained nurses to run our healthcare systems.

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

The most excited aspect of my research has been reading the vast amounts of literature on different migration patterns throughout the world. I’ve read articles from the Philippines, Italy, Georgia, Latvia, China, the United Kingdom, and the US who all have something unique to say about care workers migration. I feel like I have learned so much from these authors and truly gotten a global view on the issue. It has been an amazing experience getting to dive so deep into one issue and see the nuances and criticisms it has drawn. Reading others research has made me a better writer and scholar.

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

One thing that has surprised me is how supportive the research community can be. I was very nervous to embark on my research project because it was such an independent assignment, but actually I have gotten so much help from the people around me and it has made it feel way more manageable. My advisor, the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, and my fellow students have always been so helpful to me and truly want me to succeed which makes the process not only easier but also more fun.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research?

My main piece of advice for future UCLA student researchers is to take your project one step at a time. It can be very easy to get overwhelmed when thinking about a year long research project, but working with your advisor to create a schedule and timeline will really help to break down the process and make it super manageable! Also remember that there are so many other student researchers having the same struggles that you are and you aren’t alone. Reach out to them for help!

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

I hope that my research can help to shed light on a truly important migration phenomenon taking place around us. Oftentimes care workers are overlooked because their labor is undervalued or deskilled. In fact, they are some of the most important workers in the labor force and they are not recognized for the amazing work that they do. Immigrant women are doing jobs that few native-born workers want, but they are doing it while being exploited, underpaid, and disrespected. I hope that my research will make people think about what it means to be a care worker in our globalized world.

Student Spotlight – Amy Vandyken

Meet UCLA undergraduate researcher Amy Vandyken!

Amy Vandyken majors in Political Science and minors in Disability Studies and Education and is in our Undergraduate Research Fellows Program (URFP)! The title of her project is “Incorporating Accessibility into Critical Media Literacy Curriculum for LAUSD Ethnic Studies courses.” She focuses on how Ethnic Studies educators can fuse both Critical Media Literacy and Accessibility education. Her best piece of advice is to not conform to arbitrary standards of “typical research.”

How did you first get interested in your research project?

During fall quarter of my third year, I took an EDUC 187 titled, “Introduction to Critical Media Literacy.” The class focused on analyzing media representations, questioning the process of “normalizing” dominant ideologies, and creating counter-hegemonic media texts. The class was actually taught by Professor Jeff Share, who is now my faculty mentor (as well as an amazing human being)! Then, this past Fall Quarter, I took DESMA 171: Disability, Design, and the Web, which focused on universal design, assistive technology, and disability justice. I hope to merge the knowledge I acquired in both of these courses and in my outside experiences to develop a mock curriculum/base guidelines on how Ethnic Studies educators can fuse both Critical Media Literacy and Accessibility education in order to question the power of the word, image, and sound bite to represent social injustice.

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

My faculty mentor, Jeff Share, is one of the biggest advocates for Critical Media Literacy education to be a required part of LAUSD’s general curriculum. I am excited to contribute to this work, and push for disability studies to be included in this development. Additionally, it’s been an honor getting to work with so many educators (I want to be a teacher in the future), Critical Media Literacy experts, and Disability Studies experts.

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

I’ve been surprised with how much autonomy, and in turn, individual responsibility, I have as a student researcher. I honed in on my research question, developed my own research timeline, and cold emailed various experts in the field, with support/guidance from my faculty mentor, but not oversight. It’s been interesting finding a balance between meeting all the deadlines but also recognizing that you can also afford yourself some flexibility.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research?

Don’t conform to arbitrary standards of what “typical research.” Also, there will always be people out there who care about your work – make the first person yourself!

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

Disability/Access is often left to the wayside when it comes to social justice topics – however, it is intricately interwoven with other injustices facing vulnerable communities. I hope for my research to be the first step in my lifelong journey of incorporating disability advocacy and uplifting disabled voices in practice, research, and theory.

Student Spotlight – Steven Bech

Meet UCLA undergraduate researcher Steven Bech!

Steven Bech majors in History and minors in Film, Television, Digital Media and is in our Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP). The title of his project is “The Reactions of East and West Germany to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.” His focus is to contribute to the historical narrative of the Cuban Missile Crisis by exploring the narratives of people from different strata and countries. His best piece of advice for those interested in research: Don’t be intimidated.

How did you first get interested in your research project?

As a community college transfer student, I knew I wanted to participate in the History Honors Program before I applied to UCLA. Once I have been accepted, I did not hesitate to fulfill all the necessary requirements to be able to participate in the program and seek out a faculty mentor who was willing to work with me on this project. After dozens of emails and office hours, I was fortunate enough to land in Professor Kevin Y. Kim’s class, a Cold War historian at UCLA. Knowing that I was interested in a research project about any recent conflicts of the twentieth century, including World War II and the Cold War, Professor Kim helped me to develop a topic that has not been explored yet in the existing Cold War scholarship—the reactions of East and West Germany to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. As an international student from Germany, this particular topic immediately spoke to me as I would not only be able to rely on German primary sources to develop my thesis, but also learn about the upbringing of my parents during these turbulent years of the Cold War. Now, I could finally begin the research process.

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

What I truly love about my research is the fact that many of the sources that I incorporate in my thesis of this event that occurred in October 1962 are largely unknown to the greater public. I especially get lost in the littlest details that really allow me to put myself in the shoes of the people who lived through these uneasy times, allowing me to see the world through their eyes. Creating something entirely new and diving into a previously unexplored topic can be intimidating at times, but the experience itself and the knowledge acquired by the end of the project is worth the time and effort.

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

Having worked on this research project for almost a year now, including archival research, I quickly gained an appreciation for the work historians do. When I read any history book today, I look at the words and phrases that the author wrote with great respect. Now that I understand how much work goes into the research and writing process and recognize how challenging it can be to put these puzzle pieces together to create a narrative that is not only true to its core but also entertaining to read, I truly admire those who dedicate their lives to share with the public what has previously been hidden or unknown.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research?

The greatest piece of advice that I would like to share with the UCLA community and anyone who is interested in this endeavor is: Don’t be intimidated. In my case, the Cuban Missile Crisis is one of the most studied events in Cold War history, as hundreds of books and academic articles have been written about this international incident. Needless to say, I was enormously overwhelmed when I started out, also because I needed to deal with the challenges of conducting research during a worldwide pandemic. I cannot even count how many times I doubted myself and started to contemplate whether or not I made a mistake by signing up for this program. Fortunately, Professor Kim reassured me time and time again that it is only natural for historians to feel this way, encouraging me to keep going. With his help, I eventually found ways to effectively face this mountain of literature and scholarship and actually enjoy the research and writing process.

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

Beyond hoping to encourage other students to engage in the research process, I am hoping that my thesis will not only find a place in the existing scholarship and contribute to the historical narrative of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but also encourage other researchers to add to this ongoing conversation. With a primary focus on the key participants—the United States, Soviet Union, and Cuba—in the contemporary scholarship, there is so much more ground to cover from different angles that could significantly change how we view this military standoff. Being part of a new wave of historic scholarship that explores the narratives of people from different strata and countries, the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis is far from complete.

Student Spotlight – David Figueroa

Meet fourth-year undergraduate researcher David Figueroa!

David Figueroa majors in Psychology and minors in Film, Television, Digital Media and is in our Undergraduate Research Fellows Program (URFP). The title of his project is “Buy It All and Then Some: How Social Status Induces Selfishness Under Resource Scarcity.” He focuses on understanding why we observe selfishness even when such behaviors may be detrimental to other people. His best piece of advice to write a research plan, but be flexible with it!

How did you first get interested in your research project?

In March 2020, we saw a panic-buying response to stay-at-home orders and COVID-19. There is a particular case study that surprised me: a man purchased over 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer across Tennessee and Kentucky. At about $3 a bottle, not including tax, such a purchase would cost over
$50,000. That amount is almost 3 times above the poverty line for a single-person household in the United States. For some, $50,000 is not even their yearly income, let alone funds available to stock up on hand sanitizer. In February 2021, we saw instances of wealthy, white LA residents using vaccine access codes that were meant for Black and Latino communities to get vaccinated for COVID-19. The reason these behaviors are concerning is that they were done when resources were scarce. Hand sanitizer was limited when stay-at-home orders first began, and as we all know, there are currently not enough vaccines for everyone. The question then arose: Within the context of resource scarcity, will high-status individuals act more selfishly than low-status individuals?

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

The most exciting aspect of my research so far has been being able to collaborate with my graduate student mentor, Lauren Hofschneider, as well as my faculty advisor, Dr. Tomiyama. I had already been working in Dr. Tomiyama’s DiSH lab coordinating one of Lauren’s studies; we already knew each other long before the start of my personal research. However, being able to create an original project and collaborate with those who have supported and mentored you throughout your undergraduate career was an opportunity I could not miss. I am forever in debt to both for taking a chance on my crazy idea almost a year ago.

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

The most surprising aspect of the research process that I have become aware of was how long it takes to get research off the ground. Hours, days, weeks must be spent learning and researching the literature, waiting for IRB approval, and finalizing your research materials. All of this is not even taking into consideration waiting for funding and other collaborators to be ready as well. It is all part of the process.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research?

Plan. Plan for every single step of the process because it will be hard to know where you are going or what you must do without some sort of record to keep you on track. Related to this, is to be flexible with this plan. Sometimes you will find yourself ahead of your schedule and other times something may take twice as long to complete as you had originally anticipated. Write a research plan, but do not write it in stone.

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

The most fundamental aspect of my current research is understanding why we observe selfishness even when such behaviors may be detrimental to other people. Referring to the two cases that I previously mentioned, some people decided to rely on selfishness to benefit themselves at a huge cost to others whether it be buying all the hand sanitizer or steal vaccine access. If we can understand why some people resort to these selfish behaviors and attitudes, the next step is pinpointing methods of promoting generosity and cooperation to reduce the temptation to buy 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer across two states.

 

 

 

Student Spotlight – Celine Tsoi

Meet third-year undergraduate researcher Celine Tsoi!

Celine Tsoi majors in Psychology and Political Science and minors in Musicology and is in our Undergraduate Research Fellows Program (URFP). The title of her project is “Correlation of personality, relationship satisfaction, and music tastes.” She hopes that her project will encourage interested individuals to pursue this field. Her best piece of advice to not give up and just follow your heart!

How did you first get interested in your research project?

I have been trying to find an intersection between music and psychology since I read Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia. When I was developing my research question, I was in an Intimate Relationships class and I came across a popular article on relationship satisfaction and music taste. So, I decided to test this in an academic setting and expand it to include personality!

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

My research is still going on, but the most exciting part is when IRB gave me the green light! And I thought to myself – woah this is real, I’m doing research!

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

Gathering participants was tougher than I thought it would be, especially when I am just starting and don’t have a list of previous participants. I think I sent 15 emails, posted on all social media platforms and group texts, and I got only around 100 participants. I was also surprised by how relatively pleasant the IRB process was. I don’t know what I imagined but the comments are really helpful, and the process was very fast, too.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research?

Don’t give up! There are going to be a lot of obstacles in your way. For me, I asked two professors to be my mentor before my current mentor is willing to take me. There are also times when I felt it would be impossible to get my target number of participants, but other people are always there to help and support you! If you want to do it, just follow your heart 🙂

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

UCLA, surprising, does not have a lot of research on music psychology. So, finding like-minded individuals have been hard for me. But I hope by getting my research out there, other interested individuals will be encouraged to pursue this field!

 

Student Spotlight – Daisy Ramirez

Meet fourth-year undergraduate researcher Daisy Ramirez!

Daisy Ramirez majors in Psychology and minors in Education and Disability Studies and is in our Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP). The title of her project is ” Relationships Between Sleep Disturbances, Depression, and Academic Achievement in Latinx Youth: Moderation by Generational Status and Family Conflict.” She hopes to bring light to the different educational trajectories Latinx students undergo based on their generational status. Her best piece of advice is to find a topic you’re interested in and go for it!

How did you first get interested in your research project?

As a first-generation Latina college student, I faced many challenges throughout my educational experience. Growing up I resented my up bring because I had little to no resources at home. My immigrant parents were not able to assist me in academia and I was forced to figure everything out on my own. At a young age, I assumed that later generations (second/third generations) were more fortunate because they had a “head start.” However, I later learned that this is not necessarily true. According to the immigration paradox, first-generation students display higher academic achievements than those of later generations because of the strong desire of obtaining better economic and educational opportunities. All in all, my identity sparked my research topic, and I am also looking into other variables, such as sleep disturbances and depression, which may also influence Latinx youth’s academic achievements.

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

I have enjoyed every aspect of my research project! I have analyzed an extensive amount of literature on a variety of different variables and I am also learning how to use the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). However, if I had to pick one aspect, then it would be running statistical analyses because I am able to see the results from a sample of 1,271 Latinx students aged 9-10 across the United States.

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

With this being my first independent research project, I was surprised at how difficult it was to settle on one research question. The task of identifying and tackling a novel topic was difficult because I tried combining multiple topics into one. With the support from my mentor Blanche Wright (M.A) and faculty mentor Dr. Anna Lau I was able to combine my ideas into one concise topic.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research? Find a topic you’re interested in and go for it! I was extremely intimated at first because I did not think I was good enough, but the research field is a learning process. Enroll in research methodology classes, coding courses, and apply to any program/lab you’re interested in!

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

I hope my research brings light to the different educational trajectories Latinx students undergo based on their generational status. I also hope it encourages other first-generation students to strive in all aspects of their life, but especially within the education system!