DegreeBiology and Global Health '17
“The first time is always the hardest.” We can all testify to this quote. There’s always a daunting feeling that accompanies going into something new. For those that are unfamiliar with Bass Connections, it is a new research initiative launched at Duke University to elevate the importance of exploring societal and cultural challenges by engaging faculty and undergraduate, professional, and graduate students in teamwork. Walking to our first team meeting of the year in late January of 2014, as a first-year student with no prior research experience, I couldn’t help the anxious knots in my stomach. Needless to say, the thought of collaborating with professors, graduate students and much more experienced undergraduates was nothing short of intimidating.
We began our inaugural meeting with the classic round of introductions. As predicted, I was in a room full of very accomplished individuals, but contrary to what I had originally thought, listening to everyone’s stories did not intimidate me – in fact, it inspired me! I couldn’t help but think that at some point, they had all been in my shoes, and now look at them. This was the beginning of my journey, and I couldn’t wait to take the reins and explore.
By the second meeting, I found myself immersed in a sea of technical vocabulary, research techniques, presentations, workshops, and networking meetings. Literature reviews, IRB protocols and amendments, interviews, workshops, coding, presentations. In the span of just a few weeks, I found myself becoming very comfortable with the world of research, acquiring numerous skills with the support and guidance from my fellow teammates. As I learned more and more about the Latino MSM community, I noticed my interest for the subject matter developing into a passion to create change, to develop this crucial digital health intervention for an overlooked and underserved population.
What followed were research presentations, an intensive summer of web designing, interviewing, and community feedback sessions. Juntos was no longer a research project that I was simply interested in; it grew into so much more. It became our team’s social entrepreneurship venture that we all have been working on so tirelessly to bring it to new heights. With our project coming to an end, I have found myself time and time again reflecting back to the shy first year with no research experience. She has grown into a confident researcher, presenter, interviewer, web designer, and social entrepreneur.