A Social Approach to Biomedical Research

by Caroline Goodwin ’21

While working in the Rhode Island Resilience Lab from June to August 2020, I had the opportunity to gain research experience under a major grant: Project ED EAR. Project ED EAR is focused on the interplay between biomarkers and the social context (in-person and via social networking) of adolescents during the critical weeks following a visit to the emergency room for a traumatic injury or event. Studies involve clinical interviews, technological devices such as an Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR), characterization of social networking data, implicit/behavioral tasks, psychophysiological assessments, and eye-tracking. My responsibilities were:

  • Coding audio files.
  • Transcribing the dialogue in those files.
  • Entering data via RedCap (a browser-based software designed to design clinical research and organize data). 

On the first day of the internship, I completed training on EAR methodology with the other interns, led by the lab research assistants. This training entailed going over how to properly code different audio files (i.e., the categories and their operational definitions), the protocol of modifying files, and practicing filing in itself with the group. When it was my first real day at my job, the researchers found that the IRB had not approved for me (or the other interns) to begin working on research. Because of this, I began compiling literature reviews for a separate study conducted by one of the researchers in the lab. Though this was not an ideal situation, my previous research internship experience made me comfortable with this change. This experience gave me more opportunities to talk with my supervisors (over Zoom) more frequently and develop a professional relationship. Without this time, I do not think I would have felt comfortable reaching out to my superiors for informational interviews toward the end of the summer. 

Admittedly, COVID-19 threw a wrench in my plan for this summer. I was initially concerned about my ability to network in the lab, complete necessary assignments, and learn from the experience. I was thrilled to find how accommodating the lab was for all of the interns. We had virtual coding meetings each week and were allowed to sit in on lab meetings each Tuesday morning. Utilizing Slack (a virtual chat platform) to communicate throughout the day enabled further understanding of lab functioning and provided more learning experiences. My qualitative coding ability has improved exponentially, in addition to my confidence concerning research as a whole. I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to engage in the fellowship to have this fantastic experience.