Research Week showcases the exciting work of undergraduates across The University of Texas at Austin campus and highlights opportunities for students interested in getting involved. Co-sponsored by the Senate of College Councils and the School of Undergraduate Studies, Research Week 2011 was held April 11-15. School of Social Work senior Bethany Berkeley was among the university’s undergraduate researchers who participated. Read her spotlight:
Student: Bethany Berkeley
Major: Social Work
Research Topic: Investigating contraceptive use patterns of low-income Latina adolescent mothers 12-19 years of age and exploring the effects of intensive case management on their contraceptive choices.
This project utilizes preexisting data from the Adolescent Family Life Care Grant Evaluation Project (AFL) that concluded in November 2010. The data is being explored in the hope of finding patterns useful in predicting subsequent births within 24 months of the previous birth. The process begins with identifying the birth control method and pattern of use over time for each participant and the date of the first and second birth from outcome tracking forms and the AFL core measure. The birth control methods and patterns will then be coded into different categories and analyzed with SPSS (statistical software).
How did you become involved in research?
I became inspired after taking Social Work Research Methods with Dr. Catherine Cubbin during the spring semester last year. I decided to volunteer on a research project to see if I would be interested in pursuing research long term. I contacted Dr. Carol M. Lewis at the Center for Social Work Research and started volunteering on the AFL project in February 2010, and was hired as an Undergraduate Research Assistant after several months. Near the end of the project, I was encouraged by others to apply for the fellowship and after the fall semester concluded, I began working on the proposal.
What was the most rewarding part of your research experience?
It is truly an honor to have the opportunity to work with Dr. Carol M. Lewis and others whom I greatly admire. Overall, the fellowship has allowed for me to grow professionally, explore my own interests, and build my skill set in problem solving, prioritizing, and working independently.
How has your participation in research impacted your undergraduate experience at UT?
Participating in research at UT has enriched my undergraduate experience in many ways. I have been able to view the field of social work through a different lens and have become more and more inspired to make a difference. It has been enlightening to attend a university where getting involved in research as an undergraduate is possible, if you seek the experience. Furthermore, having the opportunity to diversify my time as an undergraduate has been greatly beneficial academically, professionally, and personally.
How do you think getting involved in research will be helpful to you in the future?
I plan to apply for a master’s degree in the next few years and subsequently attain a Ph.D. in social work. The fellowship and my time working on research projects will hopefully act as stepping stones for my future professional and educational pursuits in the field.
What advice would you give incoming students about getting involved in research?
Do not be afraid to reach out to professors and research associates and get involved. If you think you might be interested in research, try volunteering on a project. Also, utilize the many resources available at the University of Texas for undergraduate research!