Q: When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
A: I’m told by my mom that I’d always want to be a teacher of whatever grade I was in at the time. I think that just goes to show how amazing the teachers I’ve had throughout my life are and how much of an impact they’ve had on inspiring my curiosity and desire to learn.
Q: Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose your field of study.
A: I’ve been interested in health since high school, but my experiences with research have challenged me to think about how I specifically want to impact the field. One of the current projects I’m involved with uses walking as an exercise intervention for patients with Schizophrenia. Aside from an amazing mentor and other researchers who have made the project fun to work on, this project has been exciting because of the simplicity of our “prescription.” Walking is something that is cost-effective and accessible to most individuals. Using this to improve cardiorespiratory fitness is something I would love to help implement in low-income and rural communities where funding and access to equipment is limited but the rate of chronic disease diseases — like obesity, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease — is high.
Q: Tell us about a time you encountered a tricky problem. How did you handle it and what did you learn from it?
A: During the pandemic, one of the studies I’m working on moved online. It involved a walking group and tracking participants’ steps using FitBits, which can have a lot of technical issues. I’ve had to call several participants to figure out why their FitBit isn’t syncing properly, which is hard to do over the phone. I had to get creative and remembered from being a teaching assistant that I can screen-share from my iPad over Zoom, so we did that, which cut down on a lot of confusion.
We’ve all experienced a learning curve with the transition online during the pandemic, but this was a cool opportunity to get creative and use a skill I previously learned to help improve communication between researchers and participants.
Q: Describe your research in 5 words.
A: Diet and exercise improve life.
Q: What are your passions outside of research?
A: I love to cook, work out, and spend time with family and friends. I’m all about healthy lifestyles and try to practice what I preach by applying what I learn to my own life. I love hiking. Almost all of my family’s vacations are to national parks, and I’ve recently been taking lots of long walks with friends to enjoy the weather and visit in a COVID-safe way.
I am also very involved in a club here at UNC called CPALS, which allows me to volunteer in the Pediatric Oncology Clinic. This, in particular, is such an amazing experience because it helps ground me in why I research: to help improve the lives of others.