Year in Review: Public Opinion, Teaching, Mentorship, & ResearchCat

Spring semester is almost over, guys! As the crazy busy schedules are winding down (a bit), it’s time to reflect.

It’s been a pretty busy year here at the Center – among other things, we held our annual ForecastLA conference (this year it was in Downtown LA!), mentored our 15 students to present at LMU’s annual Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS), AND I was extra excited to have 3 of our students present their posters at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) this April. I also led a couple of large research projects (2018 LA Votes & the 2019 Downtown LA study) which added up to about 150 students getting some valuable fieldwork experience (woah).

Logistics rant. Speaking of ForecastLA.. this is the 2nd year I’m organizing registration and here are my two key points after being involved in event management: (1) be ready to figure out stuff on your own and (2) take notes!! This year, I had a simple goal: while most people register ahead of time online, some might show up without doing so and will need an on-site badge. Last year, we simply wrote them out with a marker (on a pre-printed correctly designed blank name badge, naturally). This year, we wanted to upgrade and print the new badges right on the spot!

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Me & my little DYMO printer

I ended up ordering a little portable label maker (DYMO brand) because it was highly rated on Amazon and well-priced. I just needed to figure out how to create a label that would look the same as the pre-printed name tags from Eventbrite (we used conferencebadge.com to create our design) and could be quickly printed on the spot. I contacted Eventbrite… & conferencebadge.com…& Dymo. After all the online chatting, they all told me there was no way to do what I wanted. Fast-forward past multiple hours I spent on Googling this over a weekend and I found a way:

  • Create our event EventNut.com (in addition to Eventbrite). It’s free.
  • EventNut happens to support DYMO printers AND it allows you to register attendees to quickly click their badge.
  • EventBrite will also produce a nice list of attendees who registered on-site.
  • I can combine that with the list from Eventbrite (where I can see who checked in out of all the people who registered) to know who exactly was at the conference (P.S. later, I can triangulate those data with the pile of returned badges to really-really-really know who showed up 🙂

I realize this doesn’t sound all that mind-blowing, but finding a way to do exactly what I needed – using a simple & quick on-site registration system that could print the person’s name badge with a click of a button and not pay any special event websites to do so – was a small yet satisfying victory. P.S. Now imagine your PC crashes days before the conference and half of your time is spent reinstalling all the programs and printer setup after IT has to fix it. It’s like an episode of Survivor!

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Our research team & students at our 2019 ForecastLA conference!

Teaching & Mentoring. One of the greatest parts of the year has been teaching! I was lucky to have a chance to lecture this Spring in addition to my full-time researcher position. It’s a Political Internship course at LMU that I co-teach with our Center’s Associate Director, but the students are from a variety of fields (including psychology, sociology, etc.)

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Literal “elevator pitch” exercise!

Much of the class content – aside from students having an actual internship – focuses on a variety of “adulting” skills: work ethic, how to dress, phone and email etiquette, importance of informational interviews, branding oneself – in life and on social media, knowing how to pitch oneself (literally in an elevator, aka elevator pitch!), and of course tips for resume and cover letter writing. To be honest, I refreshed my own knowledge on a lot of these topics (they were flashbacks from my BS in Business Management days.. I feel like grad school does not build these skills as much as it could/should).

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My 2019 Spring student mentees!

Another highlight – and always my most favorite part of the job 🙂 – is getting to mentor students in all the research things. While our Spring semester is extra busy with the ForecastLA conference and URS, Fall usually gives a chance to manage some specific skill building. My goal in early Fall was to capture these various little tasks my students were doing throughout the year and later feature key ones on their resume/LinkedIn. So how do you keep track in a super-fast-paced environment? Weeell, I experimented with different apps on Slack (we primarily use Slack to communicate at the Center). I ended up liking “Teamline” – a free app where, instead of just slacking someone to do something, I could “assign” the task and have them check “complete” when it was done. Among other benefits, Teamline saves all completed tasks and who they were assigned to. So at the end of this semester I could refresh my memory on what we did, compile a list of these activities, and reflect on them with the students. I definitely forgot how much we managed to do (qualitative coding, Qualtrics and STATA mini-trainings, etc.), so I’m glad I figured out a tracking system early on! Will use next semester too + recommend to other team leaders at the Center.

Keeping up with the hobbies. Lastly, despite all the busyness, I’m proud of not losing sight of other interests & hobbies, such as my involvement in science communication & my aerial fitness. While things get hectic and it feels like there’s no time for anything at all, you have to try to stick to what’s important in your life! For your mind, soul, and (even) physical health. For instance, I got to do a real aerial gig – in Hollywood out of all places! It was undoubtedly one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had.Another cool thing is that this year at SciCommJC we had another State Your Mission challenge, but this time around winners received prizes from our team. I’m actually virtually meeting with the winners myself later this month with my own “Make your Research Sharable” gift guide. Hopefully summer will give me a chance to focus a little bit more on scicomming (keep in mind there’s no summer break! our Center works year-round).

 

Last but not least… remember #ResearchCat? Not only did I write a legitimate article on the topic of cats and how their owners feel on a variety of issues (see here on page 23 of the book), but he also got his 15 seconds of fame in front of 300+ LA civic leaders during our ForecastLA conference 🙂 (I naturally drew him taking a StudyLA survey).
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Happy summer-ing, academic world! Here’s to some de-stressing, soaking up the sun, and achieving well-paced productivity!

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Back from #AmAnth2018, some updates!

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What a conference! I’m always full of excitement & overwhelmed by all the knowledge after attending the American Anthropological Association annual meeting (like in 2015, for example).. and this is my 6th time!

However, this trip has been the best so far. I finished my PhD degree from ASU in May 2017 and haven’t seen most of my colleagues ever since.. until this week! I saw my friends from ASU; met with my amazing PhD mentor (Dr. Hruschka) and several other professors i’ve worked with before; caught up with my “island friends” (a group of amazing folks who spent 3 weeks with me in 2013 at an NSF-sponsored research methods camp). I even ended up on camera a couple of times!

The SciComm boom

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Camera,lights,action!

Speaking of cameras. It all began with me looking for science communication talks and posters at the AAA. I did the same thing last year but did not succeed. THIS year I noticed a fantastic poster from the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) on engaging religious groups in science communication. And the people next to the poster actually knew about our Science Communication Journal club!! (@scicomm_jc on Twitter). There seems to have been some sort of a shift – suddenly my #scicomm work is interesting to other anthro scholars and that is amazing. That is how i ended up on the first short video interview for the AAA conference + another interview that followed (stay tuned).

In terms of the rest of the conference – it was so overwhelmingly magnificent that I can’t write down everything I enjoyed. So i made a twitter moment instead HERE. I also shared a summary of an amazing public engagement/science session on our scicommjc IGTV (see @scicommjc on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/scicommjc/ but i think IGTV videos are only visible from phone).

What else is new?

Well, we just finished a pretty impressive election project at the Center for the Study of Los Angeles, titled LA Votes. Over 100 students at over 600 polling places around LA County. More than 1,500 exit poll surveys and 600 polling place quality assessments collected. All of this in ONE DAY. This study was no joke.

Our results were then picked up by the Los Angeles Times HERE (woohoo!). Also by LA Taco HERE (weee!). And here is a snapshot from the Election Central watch-party the night of the study. You can’t even tell how exhausted we are with some of my student supervisors 🙂

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With our amazing student supervisors! Election Central.

In the next couple of weeks I am also revising a paper. Feeling quite ready to now publish the third and final paper from my dissertation work! This one is extra fun because it’s my qualitative work aka fascinating in-depth interviews with Eastern Europeans and North Americans about meanings behind healthy eating styles (this stuff but the qualitative portion). Stay tuned.

Lastly, I can’t wait for Spring… because i get to teach again! I’ve missed lecturing like crazy since starting my researcher position at StudyLA, so this is a very welcome addition to a rather busy work schedule. I will be co-teaching an internship class with our center’s associate director and ALSO guest lecturing in the evolutionary psychology class. Now, the latter is pure fun, since the evolution of human food preferences is my #1 favorite topic (you know, this stuff I wrote).

That’s all for the updates, happy upcoming holidays!

Hello, Los Angeles!

My 5 years at Arizona State University have been quite amazing and I will miss Phoenix dearly… However, it’s time for new beginnings.

Hello, LA! This week, I relocated to Los Angeles with my husband, who got a lecturing position in the area. Transition stages are always rough, but I am excited to be pursuing research and teaching opportunities in California.

I haven’t even been here for a full week, but already I met new fantastic people. Yesterday, I went to the Versatile PhD meetup. It was refreshing to make new academia (and non-academia) friends and hear everyone’s research stories. And it is a small world- one of the attendees studies the cultural history of Eastern Europe and probably knows more about my hometown of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine than I do.

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West Los Angeles Versatile Phd- August Meetup in Marina Del Rey

Note: aside from exploring career paths in the area and working on some more science communication content this month, I also desperately need to get used to the infamous traffic of LA… Wish me luck.

Time of Eating & Health: Video

I made my first science communication video! It took me only ~ 15 hours, no big deal 🙂

It won’t be as time consuming from now on..but there is a lot of work involved nevertheless: writing a good concise script, sketching all the images that could go along with it, setting up the recording (can be so tricky!), recording yourself draw (and redraw.. and redraw) every frame.. Then editing all those videos, recording the audio (and re-recording..and re-recording again), and finally matching video to audio (as well as finding some free background tunes to go along!). Check it out: 

 

I chose this topic because i’ve been craving to cover it for some time now. Since my dissertation work focused on lay models of healthy eating across cultures (so: people’s beliefs about what it means to eat well), I did not address the scientific accuracy of any perceptions. But oh I wanted to! And that is because one of the most fascinating findings from my interviews was that eastern European (EE) participants considered “how you eat” (i call these “eating styles”) to be more important for health than American respondents.

Eastern Europeans (EE) judged statements about EATING STYLES (such as time of eating) as more important for health…

Specifically, EE participants rated the statement “it is important to avoid eating late in the day” significantly higher than Americans (and this was true from my past survey-based studies!).

This is what the image below shows, but let me explain the method behind it: I conducted >70 interviews in the U.S., Romania, and Ukraine where I asked people to look at 42 different statements about “healthy eating”. Among other activities, they had to indicate how much they personally agreed with each statement (from “4” agree completely to “-4” disagree completely; I used Q Methodology for this, by the way ).

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So, between Americans and eastern Europeans, 1 statement about eating styles (or “context” as I referred to it in this chart) that was more important for the latter: not eating late.

So, out of ALL 42 cards, only “avoid eating late in the day” got a statistically significantly higher agreement score from eastern Europeans. AND when prompted to explain their views, my respondents gave an explanation that was amazingly close to the actual science of circadian rhythms!!

Why did EE folks seem to know about circadian rhythms way more than Americans?

I didn’t analyze why EE folks seem to know about circadian rhythms way more than Americans, but this knowledge is something they knew from childhood.. It was part of general recommendations and “common sense” while growing up in the USSR. It fact, importance of eating styles is prominent in traditional beliefs about health (like in Japan and China).. perhaps all the focus on nutrients that’s possible with modern science is taking our attention away from this old wisdom?

perhaps all the focus on nutrients that’s possible with modern science is taking our attention away from this old wisdom

Now that nutrition science is paying increasingly more attention to eating styles as well (CHRONO-NUTRITION!), I assume American folks will begin incorporating beliefs about importance of food timing also!