Grad Students Make Discoveries in Digital Research
Recently, five graduate students worked with members of University of Houston Libraries Digital Research Commons (DRC) to develop digital components of their dissertations. The students were selected by application to attend the Spring 2022 Digital Research Institute, a multi-day intensive experience aimed at building the foundational skills and knowledge needed to initiate and develop a piece of digital research. Each participant chosen for the Institute was awarded a $500 scholarship, provided by the UH Graduate School and UH Libraries, to assist in furthering their projects.
“I applied to the Digital Research Institute seeking help in defining background information for the question of how diversity in engineering has changed over time,” said Kristin L. Schaefer, P.E., a mechanical engineering PhD candidate whose research focuses on the persistence of women in engineering. “I was interested in data-mining the graduation data reported to the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) from 1998 to present to determine if there are any trends in how graduation has changed in the various disciplines and between different ethnicities, since we typically see infographics that simply discuss male/female B.S. degrees, ethnic distribution, or discipline distribution for a particular year, rather than exploring the trends with a longitudinal and intersectional view.”
Schaefer is the first graduate student to research this topic under Engineering Education (ENED) with Dr. Jerrod A. Henderson. The Digital Research Institute provided a new perspective to Schaefer’s work.
“I was able to think more critically about the message that I want to present in the introduction to my thesis, and I’m now inspired to further explore alternate methods to share the data,” Schaefer said. “I am encouraged that the things I’ve learned may uncover unexpected themes.”
Olusegun Babalola is a PhD candidate in industrial/organizational psychology whose work focuses on individual career interests and how they affect perceived career opportunities and choices. Using a sample of low- to medium-skilled youth from South Africa, Babalola is testing a well-known theory of vocational interests, Holland’s (1985) model which may hold utility for career counseling, recruitment, and selection in less developed parts of the world.
“This study focuses on lower skilled individuals,” Babalola said, “and I am testing the structural and predictive validity of the model for this sample while considering the broader context of a less structured economic and labor market than is typically studied.”
Over the course of the Institute, Babalola developed new ideas for research productivity. “I was introduced to numerous useful visualization tools that will undoubtedly help me in communicating my research in an interesting and impactful way to both academic and wider audiences,” Babalola said. “Also, I gained data management and analysis skills which will make the initial stages of my data cleaning process smoother, quicker, and much more insightful in the future.”
Michelle N. Martinez is a doctoral student in clinical psychology with a focus in neuropsychology. She is conducting research on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) in Hispanic and Latin American populations, specifically the relationship between perceived discrimination, stress, and cognition in a heterogeneous sample of Puerto Ricans.
“Prior research within my lab with Hispanic and Latin American community members from the Houston metro area has demonstrated that research and results need to be presented in a way that is more accessible and easily digestible by a range of community members,” Martinez said. “I can leverage the digital research methods I have learned, such as data visualization and use of data management tools, to help facilitate this goal and assist with disseminating my results.”
Danielle Llaneza, who is in her second year of a PhD program in counseling health, and Lucia Lopez-Hisijos, a first-year PhD student in political science, also participated in the Digital Research Institute.
“The experience of working with the researchers is always exciting,” said Reid Boehm, research data management librarian and lead instructor. “This cohort had exceptional projects that led to a lot of positive experimentation and discoveries throughout the week.”
“This was a remarkable cohort of researchers—a complete joy to work with,” said Taylor Davis-Van Atta, director of the DRC and the lead organizer of the Institute. “We hope to continue working with each of these researchers as they progress through their programs and future phases of their dissertation work.”
The Digital Research Institute is offered twice annually and is intended for graduate and professional students who are in the beginning phases of a piece of digital research, using computational tools that will form the basis of an article or a part of their thesis or dissertation. Digital research is defined here as the use of computational tools to produce new knowledge, and selection for the Institute is weighted toward applicants working at the intersection of traditional disciplines or who are applying digital methods to traditional modes of inquiry.
The Digital Research Commons exists to encourage and facilitate interdisciplinary research and build communities of practice around modern digital research methodologies. DRC staff members partner with faculty and students in the humanities, social sciences, and experimental sciences on digital research projects of all sizes, from the earliest stages of formulating a research question to publication and beyond. Contact the DRC.