Collegiate School Student Surveys Research Translation at VCU

Marnie Brennan, a senior at Collegiate School in Richmond, Va., recently completed a three week internship with the EDGE Lab at VCU where she surveyed substance use research published by members of the group, created a survey on translation of research and media consumption and presented her findings to the lab.

Every year, the Collegiate senior class is given the last three weeks of the school year to freely create their own individual projects. Throughout that time, Brennan met and spent time with almost every member of the lab, from graduate students to Director Dr. Danielle Dick.

“I got to learn a little bit about everyone; where they come from, how they got to where they are now, and what they are most interested in and why,” Brennan said. “The coolest part about this program is that it is a collection of people with different interests, from Zoe Neale, who specializes in Clinical Psychology, to Dr. Jessica E Salvatore, who is interested in how romantic relationships can affect ones drug use, to Dr. Sally I-Chun Kuo, who focuses on how genes and environment play a role in our behavior.”

Dr. Amy Adkins acted as her director supervisor during the project.

“She supported me with everything I needed; she created my schedule and reminded those who I was suppose to meet with on that day, and she was my guide for when I had questions,” Brennan said. “Without her, I would have been lost.”

As a part of her studies, Brennan completed two major projects for the lab.

First, she worked with Dr. Jessica Salvatore to create a bulletin board collating recent publications by members of the lab. The goal was to create a visual reminder of recent discoveries for visitors and lab members alike.

As a part of the bulletin board project Brennan was introduced to Pubmed and worked with Dr. Salvatore to select papers to highlight.

“Reading the different publications helped me get a better understanding of what each person is interested in and the formatting of scientific papers,” Brennan said.

Her second project focused on the translational work that COBE uses to spread research findings to the broader community. The goal of this project was to figure out how Spit for Science and COBE can work together to use social media to inform the general public about their work.

Brennan conducted a survey that was sent out to her peers about what kind of social media they use, how often they use them, where do they get their news and what they are interested in learning more about substance abuse, parenting, and mental health.

“I really enjoyed this project because I got to do a little research on my own and had the freedom to conduct my own survey,” Brennan said.

She received about 150 responses from her peers, and compiled that data into a presentation given to COBE media specialist Craig Zirpolo and Director Dr. Dick.

Among other trends from the survey, Brennan found that Instagram and Snapchat are the most popular forms of social media for 13-18 year olds she surveyed, and that the preference between the two differed by gender: males more frequently use Snapchat, while females prefer Instagram.

“Doing the internship with the EDGE Lab was an awesome experience,” Brennan said. “I loved meeting everyone and getting a glimpse of how research and dissemination comes together to achieve the common goal of helping people be healthy and live fulfilling lives.”

“As I prepare to leave for college to major in Public Health and Microbiology, the internship was a very eye opening and valuable experience.”