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Hello everyone! My name is Selma Sabra. I am a senior and I am from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I will be graduating in the Spring of 2022 with a B.A. in psychology and a minor in chemistry. I am greatly interested in human development and I have had the opportunity to explore this interest through various experiences at UNC. I am specifically interested in the child and mother populations, which I have been able to explore with the Karen M. Gil Internship. After graduation, I plan on further developing my skills at a research lab and then going to medical school to hopefully work with these populations. 

For almost a year and a half now, I have been working as a research assistant in the Classroom Memory Study at FPG Child Development Institute, where I administer and code tasks measuring children’s cognitive and academic skills. The Classroom Memory Study was my first exposure to research and is what made me fall in love with it. Since then, I have been trying to incorporate research as much as I can to my undergraduate career, as I also hope to incorporate it into my future professional paths. I have similarly been grateful to volunteer with the UNC Children’s Hospital for over two years now, where I get to interact with pediatric patients on one-on-one settings, as well as develop rapport with patients’ parents. This fall, I joined the Brain and Early Experience (BEE) Laboratory at FPG Child Development Institute as a senior thesis honors student. In addition to writing my thesis, I have been able to work and enter data from medical records into the system. 

This semester, I am a Karen M. Gil intern with the UNC Mother Infant Research Studies laboratory, run by Dr. Karen Grewen. The laboratory conducts research with pregnant women and mothers of new babies and young children to learn about the impact of prenatal substance exposure on baby brain development, the effects of lactation and natural hormones, and the relationships between mothers and babies. My mentor, Pam Beiler, LCSW, helped me craft the semester to match my interests and goals within the lab. 

My duties include helping collect, enter, and analyze data. I was trained in the Trier Social Stress Test, which is a stress-inducing task performed with mothers in our Mood, Mother, and Child (MMC) Study. Recently, I have been receiving training on Mindware technology, also for the MMC study. I have been learning how to correctly place electrodes on participants and use software programs like Biolab to get electrical signals such as ECG and ICG, which allow us to gather Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and Cardiac Impedance data. I also received training on how to score the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development for Baby Brain Development study visits. In terms of data entry, I was trained in REDCap, where I have been entering data for our Baby Brain study into the system so they can later be analyzed. I also met with Dr. Grewen and some other team members to analyze data from a study that has already been completed called the Lactation Effects on Postnatal Endothelial Function and Vascular Inflammation (LOVE) study. Unfortunately, my involvement with firsthand data collection has been limited due to COVID-19 conditions and the lower than predicted number of study visits this semester. Nonetheless, my mentor has been working closely with me to make sure I am benefitting from the experience and contributing the best I can. I will also continue volunteering with the lab next semester, where I will hopefully get to implement the skills that I learned this semester during study visits! 

I am very grateful for all the skills and experiences that I have developed through the UNC Mother Infant Research Studies and the Karen M. Gil Internship. At the lab, I have been training for study visits, reading extensive literature on pregnancy and substance use disorders, as well as shadowing study visits whenever possible. Through the Gil class, I have been able to develop professional skills that I will take with me for life. I would like to thank all of the wonderful people I have been surrounded with throughout this whole semester. My team at the laboratory as well as my Gil cohort have all welcomed me with open arms and helped me develop personally and professionally. I am grateful for all who have supported my journey and I am excited to put my new skills and experiences to good use in the future! 

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