Maheen Shakil, who is pursuing a BDP in Social Inequality, Health & Policy, spent the summer of 2017 in New York at the NYU Center for Health, Identity, Behavior, and Prevention Studies, where she assisted in HIV research. This experience opened her eyes to interacting with research participants—not just data—and reignited her passion for research work.
How did you find your internship?
I applied to many different internships through Idealist.org but actually found this one through the BDP Opportunities Blog. When I was applying, it seemed like a far-off dream that I would apply to on a whim, but to my surprise, I ended up getting an interview and eventually the position.
Describe the work you did in your internship.
My time at the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior, and Prevention Studies (CHIBPS) was a dynamic experience that consisted of both engaging in the technical side of research and interacting with human subjects. I conducted participant assessments, entered data into SPSS, screened participants for studies, and did office tasks such as front desk and scheduling appointments. Participant assessments involved interviewing them for confidential information and learning how to code different drug use and sexual behaviors. I also recruited at different events.
What was the most rewarding aspect of your Connecting Experience?
The most rewarding aspect of this research experience was getting to interact with participants and build a connection with them. Participants shared private information about their lives with us and really respected us for everything CHIBPS is doing for HIV research and to help the LGBTQ community. Overall, just knowing that I am a small piece of a much greater picture was a really good feeling.
In what ways has this Connecting Experience shaped your plans for the future?
Through this internship, I have learned that I want to stay in the public health field and continue working in research. I was initially worried that I would not like research because of a poor experience I had freshman year. However, this experience taught me that I actually do enjoy research and working with human subjects, just not “bench research.” This will help me in my next Connecting Experience when I work in a human development research lab on campus. The interdisciplinary perspectives I have gained will also aid me in connecting human development with public health for my thesis. Previously, I did not have much experience working with the LGBTQ population but after this experience, I have a newfound passion for working with this community and will continue to stay involved. I also feel more confident in my abilities to work with people and handle detail-oriented tasks. Finally, after meeting the directors of our research center, I am more interested in pursuing an MD/MPH program.
Discuss the relationship you had with your faculty mentor and how they helped you during this Connecting Experience.
My faculty mentor, Dr. Palmo, was responsive and supportive throughout my experience especially when I expressed being nervous to conduct my own participant assessments. I am glad she was my mentor for this experience.