Students Complete Research During Summer Internship

Rachel Conley ‘20, Jessica Sherpa ‘21, and Oly Holguin ‘21 spent the summer participating in an internship studying qualitative methods in social science. The internship was initiated by Dr. Heather M. Gilmartin, PhD, NP.  Dr. Gilmartin is an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado School of Public Health and Associate Director of Dissemination & Implementation at the Colorado Clinical & Translational Science Institute (CCTSI). Dr. Gilmartin is also a VMS parent, mother of Oliver ‘21 and Simon ‘23. The Social Science Qualitative Research Internship took place from June 22 - August 7 and included qualitative coursework, group meetings, independent coding, summarizing of data, and writing a conference abstract and poster.  The interns were joining Dr. Gilmartin’s funded study which aimed to:
  • Understand how individual CCTSI researchers and staff are conducting remote work during the Coronavirus pandemic 
  • Assess the impact of remote work during the Coronavirus pandemic on CCTSI researchers and staff productivity, engagement, satisfaction, burnout and turnover intentions
The students coded survey data that described how subjects were conducting research in the midst of the current pandemic. Each intern led one week of data coding and compilation. One important and rewarding element was learning how to code qualitative data. Coding allowed the interns to process researchers' personal pandemic experiences, and understand and connect with people through their stories. 
The work with Dr. Gilmartin culminated in a poster titled The Impact of Remote Work during COVID-19 on Colorado Clinical and Translational Scientists. Rachel Conley remarked, “The coding and the creation of the poster was the most interesting part for me.  I thoroughly enjoyed thinking about why people think the way they do and learning about the challenges people in the medical field are facing during this time with their research, mental health, family, and friends.” Dr. Gilmartin presented the poster at the  CU-CSU COVID-19 Summit.  The study will be repeated in the next few months to assess how Colorado scientists fare as remote work continues. In assessing their work, Dr. Gilmartin said to the students, “Your interest, engagement, and talents helped us move through the enormous amounts of data with speed and rigor.” The research that Jessica, Rachel, and Oly produced also became part of a manuscript that Dr.Gilmartin submitted to the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science.
When asked about a particular challenge of this internship, Jessica Sherpa stated, “One particular challenge I faced was recognizing my bias. When coding the responses, we had to ensure that our biases weren't interfering with the data. It was difficult to make sure we weren't changing the responses to what we wanted to hear. It sometimes took us a while as a team to determine the code for a survey response because we wanted to ensure that we were getting the most accurate code.”

Opportunities like this one are important to the future career goals of our students.  Jessica wants research to be a part of her career path. She plans to pursue medicine and hopes to conduct research that creates a positive impact on people's lives. She plans to study public health and help make healthcare more accessible to those around the world. “This research internship solidified my decision to study medicine, and it broadened my perspective about science. Most importantly, I learned science is a team sport, which is something I will forever value.” Rachel added, “I discovered through this internship that collaboration is key to success because every person had valid and different thoughts that allowed me to deepen my own thought process and understanding throughout coding and making the poster. I will be majoring in Biomedical Sciences and minoring in Psychology at the University of San Diego this Fall and look forward to doing more field work and qualitative social science in the future. I am very thankful to have been a part of this wonderful internship with Dr. Gilmartin, Brigid, Jessica and Oly. I learned so much and I am excited to see how this will help and guide me in my future studies!”