RUNC: Emily Grace Thomas

Emily Grace Thomas researches mental health interventions for student-athletes.

Emily Grace Thomasphoto by Megan Mendenhall
March 13th, 2024

Emily Grace Thomas is a senior double-majoring in psychology and exercise and sport science within the UNC College of Arts and Sciences. She researches exercise interventions that aim to combat depression, anxiety, and stress in student-athletes transitioning into college.

Q: How did you discover your specific field of study?

A: Growing up an equestrian, I saw the impact my mental state had on my performance, as well as my horse’s. I always found it fascinating to try different techniques to mitigate my stress and anxiety when it came to competition day, in hopes of operating at my peak performance. After some further research, I discovered that sport psychology was a growing field that captured my interest in the intersection of psychology and athletics.

Q: Academics are problem-solvers. Describe a research challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it.

A: The length of time necessary to work with student-athletes, especially during the summer. In my initial plan, I had a structured schedule for data collection. I had not considered that participants may have limited summer availability and may not be checking their emails during break. Recruiting participants and waiting for survey responses took much longer than I initially imagined, and I was required to maintain patience while thinking of new recruitment methods. This highlighted the importance of adapting to change and thinking on my feet in the research setting.

Q: Describe your research in five words.

A: Fostering resilience: student-athlete mental wellbeing.

Q: Who or what inspires you? Why?

A: The opportunity to address the mental health aspect in sport. Mental health plays such a distinct role in performance and can unfortunately hold a stigma sometimes. I am inspired to help build communities that are open and willing to learn about this side of sport.

Q: If you could pursue any other career, what would it be and why?

A: A podcast host. I enjoy listening to all types of podcasts, and I think it would be interesting to share my opinions for entertainment. A combination of podcasting and scientific research would be ideal!

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