Prior to becoming a USTARS (Undergraduate Sociology Teaching and Research Student), senior biochemistry major and sociology and psychology minor Shelby Koenig was already involved with research through UNL’s UCARE (Undergraduate Creative Activities & Research) program in the 2013-14 academic year. In UCARE, Shelby assisted UNL sociology chair and professor Dr. Julia McQuillan interview middle school students about their interests in science and their science identity: whether or not students consider themselves to be “science people.”
During her UCARE experience, McQuillan recommended Shelby become a USTARS. As the Department Chair, McQuillan was able to write to the Vice Chair to secure Shelby as her USTARS assistant for the 2014-15 academic year.
In her ongoing work with McQuillan as a USTARS, Shelby’s work focuses on fertility issues. Shelby’s part of the research involves searching through online databases for articles related to issues of fertility and infertility. After finding articles related to fertility issues, Shelby then coded the articles according to the additional topics they explored.
Shelby’s experience as a USTARS has also provided her with skills she may not have gained otherwise.
“Because I’m not a sociology major, I’ve never taken an in-depth methodology course,” Shelby said. Since double-majoring in both biochemistry and sociology would compromise her plans to graduate in four years, Shelby was able to participate in USTARS as a sociology minor. “I did take Sociology 310a&b (Doing Sociology), and I learned about survey development and basic statistical analysis. But the USTARS program allowed to practice qualitative methodology I might have never learned otherwise.”
Shelby also says her USTARS experience helped her prepare her honors thesis in biochemistry. In her thesis, Shelby analyzes how state abortion laws impact how prenatal genetic counselors interact with their patients. Shelby’s experience looking through and coding research articles as a USTARS helped prepare her for the research demands of her thesis.
“Being a USTARS and working with Dr. McQuillan has provided me with many opportunities,” Shelby said. Shelby’s work with Dr. McQuillan over the past two years has allowed her to help local middle school science clubs such as Microbe Maniacs, as well as attend the National Science and Engineering Festival in spring 2014. Shelby also attended the annual American Sociological Association meeting in August 2014.
Story by Lane Chasek
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