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Hello! My name is Kendall Luhn, and I am a senior from Derwood, Maryland with a double major in Biology and Psychology and a minor in Chemistry. I am especially interested in behavioral neuroscience and for the past two years, I have had the opportunity to research the neurocircuitry of alcohol addiction with Dr. Montserrat Navarro in the Thiele Lab at UNC. This experience has inspired me to pursue a career in research so that I can improve the health and wellbeing of people. I saw the Gil Internship as a great opportunity to explore additional fields of psychology in which I could perform research that will positively impact the lives of others.

This semester, I have had the opportunity to be a Research Assistant at innovation Research & Training (iRT), which is a private business in Durham that conducts behavioral research and develops programs and services that can improve the health of youth and families. They do this by developing evidence-based programs that are both effective and enjoyable for the participants. Under the mentorship of Elyse Keefe, I am working with the Media Literacy Team to help develop and evaluate two online programs, Media Aware Parent and Media Aware High School, which aim to improve sexual health outcomes for youth by teaching the parent or child media literacy skills. By teaching media literacy, along with providing accurate information about sexual health, these programs can train participants to interpret and critique messages in the media that are sometimes inaccurate or misleading while promoting healthy practices.

It has been remarkable to observe how iRT is able to apply the research that they conduct to produce practical and effective programs that can improve the health of youth. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to be involved in a variety of tasks that are at different stages of program development. This has helped me appreciate the many different stages involved in the development of these programs. For example, I have been performing literature reviews to determine the impact of different parental media mediation styles and communication on children’s sexual health outcomes. I have also learned to code the qualitative data from student’s feedback about the Media Aware High School pilot program in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Finally, I have had the opportunity to be involved in interviewing the Advisory Panel, of high school faculty and administrators, about what must be included in the program for it to be successfully implemented into High School curricula.

The Gil Internship has given me the opportunity to experience behavioral research in a private business setting and to gain many valuable professional skills. This experience has helped me solidify my interest in pursuing psychology, especially in fields related to human behavior and health. I am very excited to see what other great experiences I will have throughout the rest of my time at iRT and as a Gil Intern. I am so grateful for this opportunity and for the support that I have received. After graduation, I hope to continue to be involved in the research of ways to reduce risky behavior in people and to help develop interventions that provide people with healthier and safer lives.

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