As I mentioned in my first blog of the summer, I had two primary goals coming into my internship at the Valera Lab: to learn more about the neurobiological manifestations of traumatic brain injury, and to learn how to work in a collaborative environment with other researchers. In regards to the first goal, I would say that I did not learn as much about the neurobiological manifestations of traumatic brain injury as I helped to conduct the study whose results will show the manifestations, and the study is still in progress. However, I gained an understanding of how traumatic brain injury caused by intimate partner violence affects women on an everyday basis from interviewing the women. In regards to the second goal, I most definitely learned how to work in a collaborative environment with other researchers and enjoyed it so much, too. I have found that I prefer to work with people rather than work alone, and even though I never met my co-workers in person, I am going to miss working with them so much. Hopefully once COVID is over I will be able to meet them! Here is the photo from my first blog post, of the clinical research coordinator Annie, my co-intern Sarah, and myself. Not pictured is my other co-intern, Olivia, and the lab director, Dr. Eve Valera.
This internship has brought me clarity in regards to what I want to pursue next. I have previously considered going into research, but now I can actually see myself becoming a neuropsychological researcher. I would love to research the neuropsychology and behavior of people who commit acts such as terrorism or sexual assault.
From interviewing study participants, I have felt much more confident in my ability to be compassionate in listening to and validating people. Along with that, I learned how to process the difficult experiences that I hear and facilitate conversations in a trauma-informed manner. I have also learned how to write in a scientific convention! It is not as common-sense as you may think, it is often very formulaic and strictly-structured. However, once you learn the conventions, scientific writing becomes much easier.
If you are interested in an internship at Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School, I highly suggest finding a lab whose work you are genuinely interested in and reaching out to the lab director. I ended up in this internship because while I was conducting a literature review in my prior research position, I came across Dr. Valera’s moving work and reached out to her – and here I am now. I think that the same goes for any research institution similar to MGH / Harvard Med. These positions are never handed to anyone, you will need to work for it by expressing your interests and excitement to learn about the lab’s work.
It is hard to say what I am most proud of from this summer, but if I had to pick one thing it would be my co-intern and I’s independent research project and accepted abstract on transgender individuals experiences of traumatic brain injury caused by intimate partner violence. There is plenty of information and studies suggesting that transgender individuals experience health issues at rates disproportionate to cisgender individuals, however there is virtually no research done on their health specifically. I believe that this incoming generation of researchers will finally give sexual, racial, ethnic, and all other minority groups with unique health issues special attention. Along with the staff that conducts research, the content of the research itself deserves diversification proportionate to the greater population.
Thank you so much to Brandeis University’s World of Work (WOW) Program for helping make this impactful and educational experience possible.
— Maddy Pliskin