This summer, two UMass Boston undergraduate students worked with the Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging at McCormack Graduate School’s Gerontology Institute as part of funded research and mentoring projects for underrepresented minority students with a strong interest in health care.
Bio-chemistry major Nalat Siwapornchai was supported through the Office of Career Services’ Beacon Student Success Fellowship, with additional funding from the center. The Health Equity Scholars Program at the UMass Medical Center in Worcester funded biology major Lindsey Raymond.
Both students gained valuable research skills and benefited from one-one-one mentoring from program staff and gerontology PhD students. Together they worked on several ongoing research projects at the center, including the Age-Friendly Boston initiative in collaboration with the City of Boston and AARP Massachusetts.
As part of the Age-Friendly Boston project, Siwapornchai and Raymond attended listening sessions with seniors across the city and collected qualitative and quantitative data, coded responses, and analyzed survey results on topics such as transportation, housing, social and civic participation, and health services.
Professor Jan Mutchler, director of the Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging, called the undergraduate research and mentoring programs “a win-win-win” for all involved. “First, it’s a nice model for undergraduate students to gain valuable research experience. Second, it’s a great opportunity for our graduate students like Mai See Yang to learn how to mentor others. Third, our center benefits from additional research staff to advance our projects.” She noted that she was “happy to provide the students with the experience and opportunity to see how the research world really works.”
Lindsay Raymond, who starts her senior year in September, said, “As a student who never participated in any type of research, I sometimes felt overwhelmed when it came to the work I had to do. The mentoring I received from Dr. Mutchler and others at the Gerontology Department helped immensely. I learned how to formulate a research question and methods that can be used to investigate it.”
She examined the self-reported health of older adults in Boston and how it is related to other variables such as access to healthcare and language spoken at home.
Raymond reflects on her career path as an incoming freshman and what she has learned since then, “I never thought I had any place in research but this experience this summer shows ... that I have the ability to pursue this field further.”