Igniting an Interest in Injury Science

August 27, 2013

When talking to casual acquaintances, the requisite “what do you do?” comes up. When I say I’m the Training Manager for a CHOP-based Injury Science center, they first ask, “What does the Center research?” and then ask, “So, who do you train?” No one is ever surprised that we provide training to master’s, PhD, and post-doc level trainees -- it’s what’s expected of a teaching hospital. But most are surprised when they learn that the majority of CIRP@CHOP's training efforts focus on undergraduates. 

It all comes together when I explain that we’re training the next generation of injury scientists and igniting interest in the field by introducing young people to the world of multidisciplinary injury science, a field many students don’t know about before training here. For example, Shyam Patel, a Psychology major from the University of Maryland Baltimore Campus who recently spent the summer with us as a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) student, told me: “I learned so much about the research being undertaken for injury science and prevention, which is a field I never knew existed. More specifically, this internship gave me an in-depth look into so many different components and factors of pediatric injury.”

Training the next generation of injury scientists necessarily requires dedicated quality one-on-one mentorship.This is the cornerstone of our program embraced by CIRP scientists who recognize the transformative impact of strong mentoring. Many students leave CIRP with newfound insight into their career paths. Katie Casty, a Math major at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, experienced this during her time spent this summer at CIRP as an REU student working on a teen driving study: “My educational and career interests have shifted more towards mathematics, statistics, public health, and pediatric medicine this summer, and I am considering attending medical school and continuing with public health research,” she said. “My experience at CIRP has shaped me into a well-rounded researcher and prepared me for graduate or medical school.”

After his CIRP@CHOP training experience, Leif Malm, a Drexel University STAR (Students Tackling Advanced Research) Scholar, is now considering a career in research: “This truly has been a fully immersive research experience,” he said. “Before my time here at CIRP I was almost certain I was bound on a path towards a career in industry; but now, with my better understanding of research, I would definitely consider the possibility of doing future work with research.”

Recently, we held our eighth annual CIRP Student Research Day, the culminating event for many of our summer interns, particularly those participating in the REU program. The day gives trainees an opportunity to present their research to faculty, staff, research team members, and peers. It’s not only a great way for students to build a foundation in developing and conducting academic presentations and essential researcher skills, but also a wonderful way for Center staff to learn about the important contributions students are making to advance pediatric and adolescent injury science. 

One of the presenters, Alexandra Conway, an undergraduate at Brown University who recently completed a 10-week REU internship, shared this insight about her experience working with Dr. Mark Zonfrillo on research about pediatric traumatic brain injuries and pediatric trauma-related disabilities: “Until this REU program, I had never really considered a career in research,” she said. “Now that I have this newfound and passionate interest in clinical research, I hope to combine this with my aspiration of pursuing a career in medicine.”