Ending my research and policy-filled summer on a great note

My three learning goals for the summer were: 1) combine the skills I have acquired from Brandeis classes to our research project, 2) gain a deeper understanding of the scientific research project from beginning to end, and 3) further explore the intersection between research, advocacy, and policy.

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Me, Carolina (my fellow intern and co-author), and our supervisor Professor Siegel on our last day of work! It was such a spectacular and stimulating summer and I will miss them and their enthusiasm for social justice and public health advocacy greatly!

HSSP, Anthropology, and Legal Studies classes at Brandeis gave me a fantastic background on many of the topics studied in our research, such as structural violence, public health disparities, and public policy advocacy. Because my psychology classes taught me to think critically about statistical concepts, statistical procedures, and research methods, I was able to heavily contribute to the research collection and analysis in our project. I was also exposed to all phases of the research process working with Professor Siegel, from the conceptualization of the research question to the writing of the final manuscript. This will put me at a major advantage when applying to both research positions and graduate school programs in the future. Further, since our research findings were very significant, in the final section of our paper we were able to make important suggestions for public health policy-makers in the future that will be necessary to reduce the amount of firearm-related intimate partner homicides each year. The major policy suggestion here includes making it illegal in all states for domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) subjects to purchase and possess firearms, which is a law that only a few states have passed. In our research, we used many of the Everytown for Gun Safety databases on domestic violence to code our research, which shows how weak state laws are concerning DVRO subjects.

This internship overall has been a spectacular learning opportunity in so many ways, but has really taught me, step-by-step, the value of research in social and political change. I have learned that I want to continue taking part in research in the future and got to graduate school; however, I definitely love the policy side of research, advocating for specific changes in public policy based on research findings, more than I am intrigued by the data collection, data organization, and data analysis phases of research. I have also learned that I love the conceptualization of the research and the planning/organization of the research. By getting involved in each stage of the research, I was able to get a good sense of the areas I am most interested in pursuing in the future. Pinpointing my research-related interests in this internship will be incredibly helpful down the line when I am searching for jobs/internships in the future.

In terms of advice to students, I would recommend an internship at the Boston University School of Public Health to anyone. The faculty there are wonderful, everyone is very welcoming, intelligent, diligent, and thoughtful, and the organization is doing exceptional work right now trying to develop research that will help combat different health injustices around the globe. A huge piece of advice is to show initiative from the beginning of your internship. Explain to your supervisor what you are most interested in about research, what your goals are for the internship, and potentially where your biggest weaknesses lie so that you can work with your supervisor to strengthen these areas. For any student with an internship at a research organization, I would highly recommend speaking to your supervisor about getting involved with the entire research process from beginning to end, especially if you imagine that you want to continue doing research-related work in the future. Having at least a good idea of what goes into each phase of the process will help you really develop an understanding of which aspects of the process you are most interested in.

 

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The final version of our research manuscript before it is sent off to leading public health journal JAMA Internal Medicine for publication

Overall this summer, though I am proud of every aspect of the research project that I took part in, I am particularly proud of co-writing the final research paper with Professor Siegel and my fellow research intern Carolina. Once the paper is published in the next few months, hopefully in our top-choice journal JAMA Internal Medicine, I will officially be a published author!

Rachel Kurland, ’18

Social Justice WOW fellow

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