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Undergraduate Research Spotlight: Gaby Harder

Undergraduate Research Spotlight: Gaby Harder

Gaby posing near the Golden Gate Bridge

Q. What inspired you to pursue undergraduate research at Vanderbilt?

A. I had always heard about students working on basic science research before college, but it wasn’t until I came to Vanderbilt that I realized that research is conducted in all academic fields. As I met upperclassmen and heard about all the types of labs and research projects they were a part of, it made me want to find something I was equally passionate about. Being an MHS and Political Science major, I found that health policy was a clear intersection between the two subject areas that interested me. I wanted to learn more about it and be immersed in the actual work being done by those in the field, which led me to start looking for research opportunities.

Q. How did you get involved?

A. I met with one of my MHS professors in office hours to get their advice on how to go about finding a faculty member to work with. At his suggestion, I cold emailed Dr. Ashley Leech, among others, in the Department of Health Policy in the School of Medicine. It ended up working out that she needed a research assistant for one of her projects and I have been on the team ever since.

Q. What do you think has made your undergraduate research experience meaningful thus far?

.I am the only undergraduate working on our project, so I have had an up close view of the inner workings of a research project like this one. Our team is also very small, so I am an active voice in our meetings when discussing our progress and goals. It is a unique and special opportunity to be able to contribute in a meaningful way to a study that will hopefully result in a positive change in the standards of care for pregnant women with substance use disorder. I have found a real passion for maternal and child health as a result of our topic, which has made me interested in pursuing this specific sub-field more in the future.

Q. How do you think your experience has prepared you for your future goals beyond Vanderbilt?  

A. Being a part of research as an undergraduate has given me an early idea of what a career in academia might look like. I aim to work in the general area of global health/health policy, so it is extremely helpful to be exposed to many different types of work within the field and also to start building a network of connections who can serve as potential mentors or just points of contact. I am also developing many skills, whether it be completing a literature review or interviewing an expert physician, that have already proven to be useful.