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On April 29, as UNC’s academic year drew to a close, the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) celebrated its student research assistants with an ice cream social.

Organized by HPDP Research Scientist Lisa Pullen-Davis, and the student mentoring committee that she leads, the party gave students a chance to unwind and in some cases, say good-bye to friends and colleagues. Each student who attended received a UNC national basketball championship t-shirt as a thank you gift for being part of our research program.

Each year HPDP provides assistantships to approximately 50 students, allowing students to get practical research experience and faculty to benefit from the hard work and fresh perspectives students bring to the work. Most of these students are graduate research assistants from master’s and doctoral programs in public health who are able to use their work at HPDP as the basis for a thesis or dissertation. This year’s group of student interns also included high school, undergraduate, and medical school students.

The WAY to Health project, a 5-year worksite wellness study in North Carolina community colleges and universities, had four students on its team this year. Carolyn Naseer, the WAY to Health project director, said students are a wonderful asset to their work.

“They bring many different experiences to the project, and all have many strengths that round off our team,” said Naseer.

“Last year I worked with another research lab and my work was a lot more theoretical,” said Alrick Edwards, a WAY to Health graduate research assistant who just completed a master’s degree in Health Behavior and Health Education.

“I wanted to make sure I was involved in more engaged and applied research and Way to Health definitely has a lot of that.”

Amy Paxton, a second-year student in the master’s of public health in nutrition program, works as the project manager for the Farm-to-School Network evaluation project. She spends about 20 hours a week on the project, and is also using it as the basis for her thesis.

“I am a former science teacher and was really interested in nutrition in school environments,” Paxton said. “So this project was perfect for me.”

Phyllis Fleming, HPDP Assistant Director for Evaluation, said she depends on Paxton and other students to keep her projects on track. She said she really appreciates all the work they do in the time they spend at the Center.

Pullen-Davis and her committee develop resources and plan activities to support student mentorship at HPDP. This year, in addition to the ice cream social, the committee organized a number of other events, including workshops and informal lunches with HPDP researchers.

Although many of our UNC-CH students leave at the end of the academic year, HPDP often welcomes students from other schools for summer positions. This summer, students from UNC-Pembroke as well as several out-of-state schools will join our research teams. Many students learned about the Center from the website, and contacted the e-mail account to inquire about available positions.

DateMay 21, 2009

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