Each year, Dr. Stavrinos and the TRIP Lab mentor at least one student from UAB’s Center for Community OutReach Development (CORD). Among their successful activities, CORD conducts Summer Science Institutes (SSI) for hundreds of high school and pre-baccalaureate students, the great majority of whom are underrepresented in STEM careers.
This year, Ms. Caitlin Pope, TRIP Lab Graduate Assistant, took the lead role in the mentorship of Ashley Williams. Ms. Williams was part of CORD’s Blazing to Biomedical Career summer program. Once a part of the TRIP Lab family, Ms. Williams performed research alongside other undergraduate and graduate students and assisted with other laboratory activities.
While intimidating, having the opportunity to mentor a student so early in their collegiate career, such as the CORD students, is most gratifying as you can help plant the seed of scientific curiosity and watch the appreciation for research and knowledge grow. Mentoring Ashley Williams this summer was an awesome experience and a great teaching moment that provided me with training for my future career as a researcher in the academic setting. ~ Caitlin Pope
Ms. Williams’ research focused on teens’ support for laws regarding distracted driving. Specifically, Ashley conducted secondary data analysis using the TRIP Lab’s UHAUL study. Using logistic regressions, Ashley found that the more students perceived interacting with a cellular device as a threat to personal safety, the greater the odds they supported legislation against texting and driving. Support for such legislation was also associated with external factors (such as police presence). This same pattern of external influence on personal driving habits was found for proposed laws regarding federal regulation of non-driving related technologies.
Ashley presented a poster describing her research, “Don’t text & drive, An investigation into teens’ support for laws regarding distracted driving,” at the 2016 CORD Symposium in Birmingham. She was first author on this poster, an opportunity encouraged of undergraduates working in the TRIP Lab, as Dr. Stavrinos recognizes the importance of learning to think critically and independently for future career development.
When not performing her own research, Ashley assisted in the TRIP Lab’s CRUISE study’s simulator scenario development and research assistant training by being the “guinea pig” for working out the kinks in study protocol. She also assisted with the initial telephone screening for the CRUISE study. This work, combined with her original research project, helped Ashley gain valuable skills in conducting and reviewing scientific literature, in research design, and in statistical analysis.
Ms. Williams is a student at Lawson State Community College and plans to transfer to UAB as a psychology major. She plans to attend law school in the future.
Although it is important to highlight the valuable skills Ashley gained during her internship, it is equally as important to note that it was a TRIP Lab Graduate Assistant, Ms. Caitlin Pope, who mentored Ms. Williams. Dr. Stavrinos has implemented a hierarchical peer teaching approach, such that more advanced students play an active role in teaching newer students. This arrangement allowed both women to gain valuable experience. Through this internship, Ms. Pope was able to further hone her own research and communication skills through mentoring someone through the research process. She also experienced, first hand, the satisfaction that comes from watching your “student” grow.