Another year of the Minority Health Disparities (MHD) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) has been successfully completed! Undergraduates from across the United States, with knowledge in multiple disciplines, joined together at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to complete a summer research project. Professors from sociology, agricultural economics, communications, and children, youth, families and schools backgrounds individually mentored REU students as they conducted research to benefit the health of minority populations. They completed CITI training, which certified them in how to conduct ethical research. The students attended an intensive two week social network analysis (SNA) seminar instructed by the director of the Minority Health Disparities Initiative (MHDI), Dr. Kirk Dombrowski. This seminar incorporated a SNA software program, Pajek, which in conjunction with the course, gave students the tools to run their own analyses of their project data and develop theoretical interpretations of their findings.

Students came in with diverse areas of expertise and the majority had no previous experience in SNA. Collaboration and team work became crucial to produce a final poster worthy product by the end of 10 weeks. Some challenges arose in formatting the data for tests to be run, creating hypotheses, and understanding results. Getting aid from friends within the MHD cohort was not an issue, as everyone was strongly connected, whether it be from surviving the network seminar together or seeing each other outside of work daily. The students lived in the University Suites as neighbors and ate meals together provided by the Willa Cather dining hall, which opened the day they arrived. There were also social events, such as the MHDI badminton tournament, when students competed in teams alongside their faculty mentor.

Bonds were formed over fun and games, but every student also shared a mutual dedication to learn and had an interest in taking their experiences beyond the program. Presenters informed them about topics like mixed methods research, community based participatory research, and research evaluation methods that could potentially be applied to future careers or graduate school. The final event was a poster presentation of their work at the 2017 Nebraska Summer Research Symposium, which concluded a summer of personal and professional growth, new connections, and the development of the future leaders with minority health skills.

If you are interested in learning more about our summer Research Experience for Undergraduates, please contact 

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