Research In Action

Research In Action

Sarah Obrien CIRP
Pursuing Neuroscience and Public Health
January 7, 2021

My journey to my current position as a Clinical Research Assistant at CIRP was both unpredictable and fortuitous. Throughout college, I sometimes felt that time was running out. Seemingly right away, discussions on my “next steps” became a primary focus. I felt the pressure to choose a path, yet I was struggling to determine what that path should be.

Even though I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what I wanted to pursue, I knew that I wanted to make an impact and be fulfilled in my work. I also knew that helping vulnerable populations and those who have been failed by existing systems was my calling. Luckily, I stumbled upon Public Health as a major and found it a vast, diverse field that checked all of these boxes.

After I finished an internship focused on public health, I wanted to find another one that was more closely related to neuroscience. While doing research on internships, I found CIRP’s website and the opportunity to apply to the Injury Science Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program for summer 2020. The projects offered, the purpose of the work, and the fact that the center brings together both neuroscience and public health piqued my interest.

Researching CIRP’s REU Program

Before applying to the program, I made it a point to reach out to those who already worked at CIRP. Through this, I learned more about what people did in their jobs, their career paths, and how they got to where they are today. Their advice helped me to feel not so lost, and I could sense the passion behind their work. I knew I had to be part of CIRP in any capacity I could.

In the early days of March 2020, I was notified that I was accepted into the REU program and would be working with the Epidemiology team! Unfortunately, we all know how the rest of March went and the program became remote. While this was a bummer, those at CIRP made it a priority to make sure that the REU students still gained knowledge about the work at CIRP, available resources, and networking opportunities.

From being a REU student, I transitioned to working a few hours a week in Dr. Allison Curry’s lab. I researched current literature surrounding autistic adolescents and driving, along with brainstorming methodology for a future study on community mobility and independence.

From there, I applied to an open position on CIRP’s website and was thrilled to be chosen to work with Dr. Elizabeth Walshe and the Neuroscience of Driving team. In my role as a Clinical Research Assistant, I am responsible for human subjects research support and research team administrative support.

Without the connections I made during the past year, I would not be where I am today. I am so grateful to be working at CIRP. All of the people with whom I have interacted thus far have been nothing but gracious and willing to help. I learned that asking questions and not hesitating to email or call someone is the key to meeting new people and establishing personal connections. Most important of all, I learned that while it’s important to plan, life can take you in different directions and being open is the first step in the right direction.

CIRP is currently accepting applications for its Summer 2021 Injury Science REU Program. The deadline to apply is January 17, 2021. Learn more here.