Month: August 2019

Reflecting and Ramping Up for the Semester

These past two weeks I have taken a break from working on my thesis to act as an Orientation Counselor for CMU’s Orientation Program. Speaking with first-years about my experiences and ushering in the next class of Tartans has caused me to pause and really reflect on what it means to be a CMU student, a senior, and someone conducting a year-long research project.

I spoke at Dietrich College’s convocation and chose to focus my speech on the concept of openness. CMU is a land of opportunities and the main piece of advice I had for the sea of first-years was to let themselves be open to new opportunities and experiences available here. A misconception held by many students entering college, one that I originally held, is that college is just about taking the required classes for your major and getting out with your degree. But the truth is that CMU is the place to examine your interests and explore what you’re truly passionate about.

Senior year is speeding towards me fast. It’s thrilling and terrifying to be nearly finished with my time as a student, since that’s all I have ever really done. I have only ever been in school for the majority of every year since kindergarten. I like to think that I’ve learned a few things along the way but I always thought I’d feel secure and confident in my position as advice-giver or college senior. I’m still unsure of my path after graduation but I can focus on making the best of my last year and the work I’ll be doing.

With the start of the semester comes classes and and the re-ignition of my thesis project. This break has been a useful palate cleanser as I have to now prepare to work on my thesis in completely new conditions. During the summer, I was able to focus solely on my project for hours on end in the same location. Now I need to adapt and figure out how to weave my project into my schedule of classes and extracurricular activities. Having a daily routine really helps me to focus; when things are often up in the air it’s more difficult for me to plan out how to get things done. Gone are the days of sitting at the same desk from 9 to 5; welcome to balancing act. I know that I’ll have to give myself time to adjust to a new method of working on my thesis, but I’m worried I’ll feel out of sorts or that I’m trying to do too much at once. I need to find time to breathe, and then actually do it.

This is the last of my summer blog posts for the Research Fellowship Blog, and I’m sad to see them go. I enjoyed reading up on what the other fellows were doing but now that the semester’s starting up, I’m excited to see them in person and to throw my heart back into the work.

The End of Summer

Time is passing by quickly and the end of this summer vacation is not far away. I came back home several days ago and I finally got to see my parents and my friends who I haven’t met for about six months. I also got opportunities to visit some newly open restaurants and experience different kinds of delicious food. However, it’s extremely hot in the city I live in — it’s even difficult to walk outside for a while.

Facing the end of summer, maybe it’s time to look back what I have done during this summer vacation. With the help of my advisor and the honors fellowship program, I have finished the literature review about support-seeking and support-provision in close relationships. I have refined my hypotheses, project design and theoretical rationale and more importantly, I have completed some goods drafts for the introduction part and methods part of my honors thesis. During the summer, I also participated in the Speak up! course hosted by the university research office, and I learned from many professionals about how I can effectively introduce my research project to the audience and let the audience understand the significance of my research.  

I will try my best to enjoy the rest summer. When the school starts again, I will resume my project and give you more updates. See you later!

Not Quite the Final Chapter

It’s the end of summer, and so far I’ve gotten a pretty good portion of my novel written. My plans going into the academic year are to finish up the first draft, and then move on to editing. Luckily, some pages have already been workshopped through the program I went to in Prague.

            The time in Prague also helped for inspiration. We went to the Bone Church in Kutná Hora, which is a church where people who died from the Black Death and the Hussite Wars were buried in an unconventional way. Their bones were used to decorate the chapel, as shown in the pictures below.

            The plot of my book deals with family and religious themes, so visiting this was very helpful in terms of inspiration. I got to share a little bit about this experience in my update-presentation, and was excited to receive questions about it; the sources of inspiration and general plot questions. I always get nervous telling people about my work, but it’s really helpful and encouraging when people show genuine interest in it and ask questions about it. I also enjoyed hearing even more about the progress with the other fellows’ projects, and hope to continue keeping in touch with them throughout the year.

This summer has been helpful in a lot of ways with giving me time to write and the opportunity to workshop my pages, and I’m excited to continue writing and editing into the school year.

The last weeks of summer 2019, post from Beijing

The note my mom wrote me and half a corn. This type of corn is different for the ones I can get in U.S. It has a very sticky, chewy texture. Very YUMMY!

When I was younger, summer always felt like an eternity. The long, bright and hot summer days made everything immersed in it become insensitive to the passing of the time. I would spend those humid and cloudy afternoons, sitting in the yard, dipping my toes into the pond, wondering about why the time was so still. 

But this was not what I experienced this summer. All of a sudden it has come to an end. I am actually typing this post in my home back in Beijing, after spending 20 hours on the flights. I still can’t believe that I am approaching the end of summer 2019, the last summer I have as an undergraduate student. 

Everything is going well, I suppose. For my two projects, I have something written up. Nothing fancy and definitely needs more refinement, but those are two starting points and I know where I am heading now. Some good news also came from my project in ILLL: the project I started last summer, after a year of data collection, the results are actually consistent with our hypothesis. It was kind of awkward because I prepared the statistics analysis for Meeting of the Mind all in a hurry, so I didn’t do the right things and found a non-significant results. But after spending more time learning (or relearning) my statistics, the results seem promising, which made my follow-up projects look more exciting. 

It’s funny how I always grow attachment to the studies I’m working on. The term “brain-child” can’t be more appropriate. Honestly, the time I spent on thinking about those two studies would inevitably lead to this kind of attachment, and I would become a “worrying” parent for them: “What would happen when I’m gone. ” I have already implemented the follow-up for FUZZ (the project in ILLL), but what about CALA (the project in ICL)? There is never a single one-shot study in psychology that will be good enough to prove anything seriously, so a follow-up study would be inevitable. I know, of course, when I leave college my connections with my advisors and labs will not be cut. But still, I think I will need to find a babysitter or a foster parent for them. 

I am applying to graduate school this fall, so I sincerely hope my future graduate school advisors will be interested in my brain children as well. Not the “oh-that’s-cute-as-an-undergraduate-project” type of interested, but really really interested in the significance behind them.

Presenting and Pondering

Myself and the other fellows finished our summer of research by presenting our work thus far. Rather than being nervous for my presentation, I was instead surprisingly excited. I find my research of the brain’s visual system to be extremely interesting, and I was looking forward to being able to share this interest with others!

The presentation experience did indeed live up to my expectations. I really enjoyed explaining my initial findings, future plans, and the significance of my work. After my presentation, I was particularly moved by the insightful follow-up questions from the audience. The audience’s relevant questions were not only thought-provoking, but also demonstrated to me that I had explained my area of study well enough that the audience was able to synthesize the information.

In addition to enjoying my own presentation experience, I also enjoyed listening to the presentations of the other fellows. Each of the fellows have been sharing their progress at our weekly meetings, but getting to formally hear about their initial findings provided a new perspective of their work.

Throughout the summer, the fellows and I have established an exciting environment of academic discussion. I hope we continue to share our work and learn from one another as we enter the fall. I look forward to seeing how our projects progress as we continue on this research journey together!

Summer Writing

Recently I’ve been focusing a lot on writing down my experiences that relate to my project — so I’ve been writing about racism that I experienced during my school career (for the most part) — because those experiences are the ones that I remember most vividly.

I have a tendency to ramble when I write, at times, and I feel like I’m doing a lot of rambling when I write these experiences down — I guess it’s better than not having anything to write, however, because then I can condense my rambles into short stories that will make sense (once I start drafting my essay/thesis). I think I also ramble more when I write about memories that I remember more vividly or experiences that I remember the most parts about.

There are also memories that I don’t remember that well, as well — or just remember in pieces — and these I write by looking at this document that my friends and I submitted to our school administration in middle school, when we were experiencing a lot of racism from the same students. It helps because we wrote down things about the racist incident that we experienced (at most one or two sentences) and helps me remember the essence about what happened — but it doesn’t help me remember all the details and such, making it a little bit harder to write in general or write a perfectly accurate account.

Some Thoughts About Final Presentation

Despite my worries, the final presentation went pretty well. I gave a clear speech about my honor thesis and my current work progress, and the audience seemed to be highly engaged.

One thing surprised me a lot was people’s big interest in my project. My honor thesis is about the predictors and consequences of support-seeking in close relationships. When I first introduced my project to others, the first question they had was what could be defined as support-seeking behaviors, and the second question was about the significance of studying specific support-seeking behaviors, given that asking for support and giving support are such natural things happening in daily life. I thought for a long time about how I could introduce support-seeking in a way that people can easily grab and relate to their own lives or even their private relationships. The program director Dr. Devine provided me with some inspiration. In “Modern Family,” an extremely popular show that many people might have watched before, once the husband Phil was enjoying a free spa and he got a phone call from his wife Claire, in which Claire was complaining about all the bad things happened in her terrible day. Phil provided many simple solutions to Claire’s problems, but Claire didn’t want to hear them. So, Phil was confused about the reason why Claire appeared to be so rejective to his suggestions. Later he learnt from his spa friends that what Claire needed were reassuring or comforting statements from her husband instead of a bunch of seemingly practical solutions. The show provided a perfect example of mismatch of support that could frequently happen between couples. To elaborate, mismatch of support refers to the situation in which a person is providing support that his/her spouse doesn’t actually need.

In my final presentation, I used the story in Modern Family to introduce my honor thesis. Most of the audience seemed to understand my research purpose quickly. Particularly, there was one professor who stopped me after my presentation and told me that she would like to read my thesis paper when it is finished because she realized that mismatch of support could sometimes happen in her own life as well. I realized that every research is valuable and there’s always a better way to communicate research to the audience.

The End (of Summer) Is in Sight

These past few weeks have been focused almost exclusively on presentations. The 3MRT, the practice in-progress presentation the week after, and finally the actual in-progress presentation that each of the fellows gave this week. These last two weeks have been a great opportunity to step back and reflect on what I’ve done this summer and how I intend to move forward, especially as the fall semester is about to start. One of the most important aspects of talking about my research in front of an expert and non-expert audience is the opportunity for feedback.

When I get really invested in a project, especially one that is solely my own, I can have difficulties getting feedback. I often feel defensive of my work as though it’s an extension of myself. This is something that I’ve had to work on since it’s such an important part on improving any project. Getting feedback from others is a great way to incorporate multiple perspectives and thus make a better result. This was the theme of the week. Dietrich deans, professors, and faculty were present along with my fellow Fellows, and I was presented with a lot of suggestions and ideas that I hadn’t considered. One was the possible effect of the type of device used to take the survey. People may use different keywords when they type using a keyboard versus when they have to use just their thumbs.

It’s hard to believe that the summer’s almost over. I feel as though I blinked at the start of the summer and all of the sudden I’m heading back to NJ for the last week. To celebrate the end of summer, all the fellows went to the Milkshake Factory. It was nice to wrap up all the presentations with a little ice cream celebration.