Roxie’s SPUR Experience
Eight weeks ago, I flew for 17 hours, from Taiwan to Santa Barbara, a town I have never been to. The next morning, I sat in a tiny, windowless room staring at the biggest SPSS dataset I have ever seen, thinking to myself, “What have I done?” My kind and incredibly efficient mentor Dr. Heejung Kim had tasked me with analyzing a 1000 participant dataset, recruiting summer participants, and writing a research paper. Staring at the screen in our lab at UCSB, I was trying my best to decipher what each variable meant and what I could do with it.
Tuesday morning, Kimin Eom, a PhD candidate, came to my rescue. We worked on testing correlations, regressions and different ways of combining variables. Things started to make sense. I gradually realized what I wanted to try to find. After two weeks of reading articles and running regressions, I thought I was finally done with SPSS.
That was the most ignorant moment I have experienced this summer. I was far from done, and I probably never will be done. Kimin waved his data wand and introduced me to operating syntax files. Then, things got really complicated. Mediation and Moderation came into my life. But a few days later, I could read and write syntax and I was running analyses that I didn’t even know existed before. As I buried myself in the pages and pages of printed output I brought home with me, I thought, “This is actually kind of fun.”
Prior to SPUR, I knew that I wanted to go to graduate school. However, I did not know whether or not I possess the skills and characteristics required to be a good researcher. SPUR has been both a coach and an umpire to me, helping me develop my skills and making the call on whether I should continue. It taught me the statistical and critical thinking skills that I otherwise would not have learned at my university, while allowing me to be a part of this very rigorous research environment.
What was invaluable about SPUR was not only the skills it had taught me, but the lifestyle it had given me for the last two months. As an international undergraduate student, going to graduate school seemed like the right thing for a good student to do, but I never thought about what it would mean for my lifestyle. SPUR was an opportunity for me to experience this lifestyle firsthand before committing to it for five years. And I found out I love it. I love being able to search for answers to any question I have. I love lying on the beach reading intriguing articles. I love having conversations with scholars who are so passionate about what they do. I love seeing p = .0000 after spending four hours on my syntax file and realizing it’s 11:00 PM.
Being a SPUR intern was like being a pre-PhD student. I had a lot of freedom. What came with freedom was the need to be independent and highly self-motivated. My experience with SPUR told me that I can do it. I have the abilities and characteristics to learn what it takes to be a great researcher, if I work very hard. I want to continue studying Social Psychology, not just for the next year, but for the next five, ten, twenty years…
I was fortunate to be one of the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research 2016 cohort and so lucky to have had Dr. Kim and Kimin as my mentors. Thank you! Dr. Kim agreed to work with me remotely on a new project that I proposed and I have no doubt that I will continue to learn from these two amazing scholars post SPUR.
Moderation and mediation: two words I’ll never forget from this summer.