My name is Tatiana Gonzalez-Argoti, and I am a senior from Bogota, Colombia majoring in Psychology (B.S.) with a minor in Neuroscience. My pursuit for a career in Psychology is motivated by my curiosity and desire to understand the long term effects of early life events on neurodevelopment and behavior. This pursuit has lead me to a series of rewarding experiences that have further strengthened my dedication to the field.
Through my work with psychiatric youth and adults with developmental disabilities, I got a first-hand look into the lives of children with e.g. fetal alcohol syndrome and adults with e.g. down syndrome, and the daily challenges they must overcome. These experiences taught me a series of invaluable lessons regarding the devastating impact mental illnesses have on the quality of life of individuals afflicted by them, and ultimately inspired my desire to get involved in research in order to better my comprehension of pathways to brain pathology and the different modalities to prevention and treatment, specifically, eating disorders and substance use disorders. This interest was brought to fruition at the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders (CEED) through the Karen M. Gil Internship program.
At CEED, a multidisciplinary team aims to understand the biopsychosocial causes and consequences of eating disorders through the integration of clinical care, training and research, and ultimately, to use this knowledge to develop and provide the most effective, evidence-based treatment options to clients with eating disorders.
Under the primary supervision of Dr. Jessica Baker, I have been fortunate enough take part in projects that help the CEED accomplish its mission, primarily by contributing to the development of the Carolina C.A.R.E.S. study. Carolina C.A.R.E.S. is a university-wide initiative focused on identifying predictors of mental and emotional well-being in college students with particular focus on typically underrepresented groups (e.g. ROTC’s), eating disorders, substance use, personality, demographics, trauma, depression, anxiety and mental health history. What makes this project unique and a privilege to be a part of is the extensive applicability of the findings from the study. The results will provide an enhanced understanding of gene-environment interactions which will permit the creation of risk profiles, and in turn, will help individualize treatment and prevention methodologies based on individuals’ profiles. Furthermore, the data collected will be of open access that way students/faculty can carry out their own spin-off studies, helping us identify student challenges unique the UNC environment and informing us on how to modify student resources so that they are most appropriate to the UNC student population.
Through Carolina C.A.R.E.S. project, I have acquired knowledge on eating pathology and the genomic approaches to researching mental health by assisting with literature reviews for the grant proposal. Through my role in creating a codebook for the survey component of the study, I have gained experience with Qualtrics and the different measures used to assess eating disorders and environmental risk like the Childhood Trauma Events scale and Eating Pathology Symptoms Inventory (EPSI). Additionally, I have been challenged to learn how to use SPSS (which, admittedly, was foreign to me prior to this internship) and to apply the skills I have acquired by developing a hypothesis using data from the preliminary Carolibe C.A.R.E.S. study and by performing statistical tests and analysis. Given my ever-growing interest in eating