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CRF Travel Award Recipients (’11-’12) Reflect on their Family Research Experience – Networking & Learning Coast to Coast

Every year the Center for Research on Families is thrilled to provide travel awards to young, up and coming family research scholars. In the 2011-12 school year, CRF awarded funding to 11 graduate students to assist them with presenting their research at a national conference. Students traveled across the country from Orlando to Washington DC to San Francisco, and their experiences have given them the opportunity to enhance their research and presenting skills, meet leading scholars in their fields of interests, and build their national networks with researchers and other students.


A major benefit of going to conferences is the ability to attend panels, presentations, and events with top researchers in the field. Claudia Lugo (Clinical Psychology) went to the American Psychological Association Annual Convention in Orlando and said that the highlight of her experience was “being able to meet scholars whose work I constantly cite. It was great to be able to hear their talks, as well as having one-on-one conversations with them afterwards about common research interests. Being able to meet other scholars, both faculty members and other graduate students, with similar interests led to very interesting conversations and stimulating debates. From these interactions, I was able to learn about new instruments and measures relevant to my work that I did not know about.”


Students also had the chance to develop their research topics and methods. By participating in the International Communication Association Annual Conference in Phoenix, Kimberly Walsh (Communication) said that she “thoroughly enjoyed talking with other media literacy researchers about their experiences designing and facilitating media literacy interventions. It was encouraging to hear that we had faced similar obstacles and were struggling with similar questions. This motivated me to focus my research on resolving and clarifying some of these common issues and concerns.” By learning about leading research techniques being done in the field, students could return back to UMass to apply their knowledge to their own projects.


One requirement for receiving the CRF travel award was that students not only attended the conference but also presented their own work. Students could present a paper or poster and this helped them to frame their research into a comprehensive presentation and get feedback from other students and scholars from across the country. Hillary Halpern (Clinical Psychology) presented at the Gender Development Research Conference in San Francisco and describes her experience as a first-time conference presenter: “This was my first time presenting work at a conference, and I was there without anyone from my lab, so I was very nervous beforehand! Despite my nerves, being there alone was empowering, and it felt great to present my work without feeling that I had anyone to fall back on if I encountered difficult questions. Getting over the hurdle of presenting alone was huge for me, and will continue to pay off when I present work in the future!” Martha Balaguera (Political Science) was also presented for the first time at the Northeastern Political Science Association Meeting in Philadelphia and said that the best part of her conference experience was the “serious work and engagement shown by my discussant and even by the attendants to the panel. I got very good feedback, and felt encouraged to continue to participate in this kind of scholarly activities.”


Laura Kurdziel (Neuroscience and Behavior) had a unique opportunity to enhance her presentation skills at the Society for Neuroscience Conference in Washington, DC. Along with her regular presentation, Kurdziel was selected to present at the Sleep and Circadian Rhythms Mixer Datablitz. In this pitch-style competition, she had to give a one minute presentation about her data with only one slide; participants who went over the one minute limit were booed by the audience but those who effectively explained their research in a pitch that was one minute or less received a rousing cheer. Kudziel recalls, “This was terribly nerve-wracking because of this enormous conference (over 32,000 neuroscientists attended), and almost all of the top researchers in the sleep field were at this datablitz. I am happy to say, I avoided all jeers, and finished with cheers. As a result, I was approached by a number of famous sleep researchers, and was able to network successfully.”


The chance to network was a major factor for students when deciding to attend the conferences and many of the award recipients commented on how much this helped them build their academic networks. Yessel Yoon (Clinical Psychology) attended the Conference on Emerging Adulthood in Providence and described, “During my poster presentation session, I made good connections with others from various institutions. I was not sure if I would get the opportunity to make professional connections, but I got positive feedback from others which led to follow-up conversations after the poster session. I also think it was a positive experience to attend the conference alongside my colleagues from the clinical program at UMass.”


CRF is proud to provide these travel awards in order to provide students with the ability to improve their research, presenting skills, and networks. Conferences are extremely beneficial for the future career of a student but are also very expensive, so CRF is committed to assisting students who want to present at conferences. Hillary Halpern (Clinical Psychology) said, “This award was a big help in terms of lessening the financial burden of my trip to the Gender Development conference. Between poster-printing, flights, airport shuttles, lodging and meals, the weekend cost me about $900. Especially on a student budget, every bit helps!”


CRF is providing travel awards again for the 2012-2013 school year, so for more information or to apply visit: Applications for fall conferences are due October 22, 2012 and spring conference applications are due February 25, 2013.


Learn more about the students and their research here:

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