Marketa Burnett

Senior Marketa Burnett is an undergraduate researcher double-majoring in psychology and African, African American, and diaspora studies within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. She is also a McNair Scholar and serves on the Campus Health Advisory Board. Her research focuses on the concept of inferiority amongst African-American youth and its effects on educational outcomes.

Portrait of Marketa Burnett on campusphoto by Mary Lide Parker
February 1st, 2017

When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Describe your research in five words.

“How do children perceive themselves?”

I wanted to be a princess. As I got older, my answer changed to wanting to be a psychiatrist. I knew I wanted to be a doctor, but I could not handle blood!

Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose research as a career path.

I spent a summer as a pre-college mentor with the Upward Bound program. We took our students on a tour of UNC- Chapel Hill and, as we did with all of our college tours, asked our scholars what they thought afterward. Some of the kids said they would love to come here, but they never thought they would be accepted to UNC — or be successful here — simply because they were African American. Coming from a group of highly qualified students, these statements puzzled me, and I knew that I wanted to study this for the rest of my life: self-concept and how that affects the educational outcomes of African-American students. I figured that if I could unlock why so many students had these thoughts, then maybe my research could turn into productive interventions to improve their outlooks and overall trajectories.

Burnett laughs with her students in UNC's Upward Bound Scholars program.

One of Burnett’s favorite things to do on campus is mentor students within UNC’s Upward Bound Scholars program. Here, she presents to middle-school-age children on how to best prepare for college.

What’s an interesting thing that’s happened during your research?

Over the summer, I compiled my data and ran the analyses. At the end of it all, I found my initial results were not statistically significant. It was a blow to my soul. While I know this is a common occurrence, it was an important reminder that research is not always predictable. In fact, my results opened up new questions for me that I had not considered. I learned how important it is to be flexible in research.

What advice would you give to up-and-coming female researchers in your field?

Dream big. Don’t limit the reach of your ideas or be scared to push the envelope because you are a woman — and there aren’t too many of us here. If no one challenges what has always been said or done, we aren’t doing our jobs. You belong in this field so do not take “no” for an answer. I’m rooting for you!

UNC Research is proud of every scientist on this campus, but we are especially excited to promote our female researchers in 2017. Each week this year, we will publish a short Q&A feature on one of them — whether she is an undergrad, PhD candidate, or full professor. Please click here to make a recommendation.