Women have made considerable progress in education and the workplace; however, progress in science and technology fields continues to lag behind. Females remain underrepresented in science majors at the university level and, subsequently, represent less than a quarter of full professors in scientific fields. Increasing female representation in science is considered a national priority. Studies indicate women who receive a mentored scientific experience are more likely to choose careers in science and research than peers who are not exposed to scientific research in a mentored environment. Thus, our grant focused on attracting female students to the academic and scientific environment has followed recommendations provided by the American Association of University Women to provide female undergraduate students with mentored interdisciplinary experiences in neuroscience and health psychology.
The funds from this grant were used in three primary ways. First, we have recruited and provided mentored research experiences to eight female undergraduate students and three female graduate students. The names of the students are listed at the end of the report. The projects these students have worked on have been a mix of both neuroscience and health psychology, with the primary focus being on the impact of brain variables on stress and health. An example of a specific female student is Kaylie Carbine. Kaylie is a junior majoring in psychology with aspirations to join academia as a clinical psychology researcher. Kaylie joined the lab based on funds from this grant and quickly gained experience applying electroencephalogram (EEG) electrodes, collecting blood pressure and cortisol measurements, and administrating psychological tests of memory, abstract reasoning, and cognitive control. She subsequently gained experience in data analysis and reduction. Based on these experiences Kaylie came up with a study idea to examine self- /other-attributions (called locus of control) and how these attributions influence our brains’ ability to detect and overcome day-to-day mistakes. Kaylie wrote a student research grant that was funded for this project. We are now in the process of collecting and analyzing Kaylie’s data. Kaylie is also the “study leader” for a project combining health psychology and neuroscience methods to examine the effects of walking on complex brain functions. Kaylie supervises a team of undergraduate students in exercise science, psychology, and neuroscience in gathering the EEG and heart rate data while participants are concurrently walking on a treadmill. Kaylie is honing her leadership skills in the research context. I am confident that through these experiences Kaylie will be a very competitive graduate school applicant.
Consistent with Kaylie’s leadership opportunities, the second aim of the “Women in Science” grant is to provide lab leadership responsibilities to female undergraduate students. A student who has benefitted from these leadership experiences is Cierra Keith. Cierra is a senior majoring in neuroscience who plans to pursue a career in clinical neuropsychology. Cierra joined the lab as part of the Women in Science experience. She became a study leader for the Women in Science study looking at the role of social support and stress on brain-related indices of cognitive control. Cierra took the lead in matters of scheduling, participant recruitment, and data analysis. Her leadership responsibilities and lab experience translated into an offer to attend the University of Saint Louis for graduate school in clinical neuropsychology where she is now enrolled. Cierra indicated that there were twenty people interviewed for two slots. She was fortunate to be chosen for one of those slots. I am confident that her research and leadership experience provided through this grant aided in her acceptance to graduate school to pursue her science PhD.
The third aim of the grant was to involve female students in publishing scientific manuscripts in well-respected journals to continue to improve their applications for graduate school. Kaylie and Cierra are both involved in writing up their respective projects. In addition, several female students are working on data cleaning and analysis in preparation for publication. We do not have any published work directly stemming from this grant yet; however, we anticipate at least three papers will come within the next academic year. The papers will focus on stresspsychobiology and the role of ambivalent or supportive friendships on the neural correlates of error processing. Findings from the data thus far suggest that there is a heightened neural response to errors in those individuals who receive feedback from their ambivalent friends relative to those who receive feedback from supportive friends. These findings are consistent with those previously published by the grant co-Investigator, Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, on blood pressure and health outcomes in individuals with ambivalent versus supportive friendships. Thus, we feel that the academic objectives of the proposal were generally met, although a little more slowly than we would have liked. There were some initial difficulties with participant recruitment. These have long since been resolved and participant recruitment went rather smoothly for the completion of the study. As noted above, we are hopeful that the three “deliverable” papers will be completed by the end of the upcoming academic year, but there are none to date.
Finally, we have held several “Women in Science” lunch meetings using the funds from these grants. These meetings typically include a speaker and a discussion about the role of women in scientific realms. For example, in a recent meeting Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad led a discussion on how to balance work and family responsibilities as an academic scientist. Students asked many thoughtful questions. Dr. Holt-Lunstad was able to clarify some common misconceptions and let students know that proper work/school balance is not only possible, but something that women in science can excel at when given the proper support.
In evaluating the mentored environment, I would like to reference a discussion I had with a female student just this morning. She spoke of feeling empowered by the example of strong scientific role models here at BYU and how this grant has facilitated her ability to get to know these individuals. She indicated that she is thankful for mentorship in how to best become a female in science and the challenges and joys that come therewith. She mentioned how she continues to struggle with the difficulties of determining how and when to begin a family during the academic process, but felt listened to and more ready to broach these topics in the future. The fact that we were having these types of conversations suggests the mentored environment has been largely successful. Overall, I think that we have increased the volume of women in science, exposed them to opportunities for growth, and helped them see the importance and difficulty of career/family balance. There is still much to be done, but I think we are moving in the right direction as far as open and honest dialogues with regard to women in science.
We are extremely grateful for the funds provided by the Fulton’s to improve academic success for females at BYU. We are confident that the funds were put to good use and that female students gained research experiences that will make them more competitive to pursue sciencerelated careers. As noted above, one has already gotten into a PhD program based on her research experiences with this grant. There are several more who are applying this year to follow. The breakdown of how the funds were spent is included below. We sought to follow the budget we requested as closely as possible. We also list below the female students who were mentored and/or worked on projects related to this grant. Thank you for supporting them! Please let us know if anything else is necessary.
Female undergraduate and graduate students who have benefitted from these funds:
• Kaylie Carbine, Psychology
• Cierra Keith, Neuroscience
• Whitney Worsham, Psychology
• Rochelle Jones, Post-baccalaureate Student, Neuropsychology
• Katie Slinn, Neuroscience
• Ann Clawson, Clinical Neuropsychology/Clinical Psychology (Graduate)
• Chelsea Livermore, Psychology
• Sanam Jivani, Clinical Neuropsychology/Clinical Psychology (Graduate)
• Andrea McCall, Psychology
• Kersti Spjut, Clinical Psychology (Graduate)
• Tyshae Davis, Neuroscience
o We anticipate Kaylie, Cierra, Whitney, Chelsea, and Katie will be authors on three academic papers to be published in the next year.
Breakdown of how the budget was spent:
• The vast majority of the funds were used to pay for undergraduate student work on the research project. Specifically, over the two-year period of the grant, the budget paid for $11,400 in student-related work.
• It is costly to run multiple participants through EEG protocols. Furthermore, the cost of cortisol and oxytocin is high. The analysis of cortisol and oxytocin samples cost $6,604. More than we were expecting, taking away some of the travel funds appropriated for the grant.
• Additional EEG supplies, including potassium chloride, replacement net electrodes, distilled water, and participant payment cost $1,200.
• We bought lunch for the students (in accord with our budget) for some of the mentored environment lunches. The total cost of the lunches we provided was $200.
• Taken together, the total funds expended was $19,404 of the $19,940 allotted budget.