Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Verrazano Junior Studies Culture Shock with Dr. Sussman

Nora Mahmoud, Verrazano Class of 2013, shares her experience doing research as an undergraduate at the College of Staten Island.
Hello everyone.  I’m Nora, a Psychology (BS) major writing for the first time on The Verrazano Voyager blog.  I would like to share my undergraduate research experiences.  The research I am taking part in studies the physiological effects of culture shock among naked mole rats.  We will basically be moving a mole rat from one colony into another and measuring its stress levels.

In terms of getting involved in the research officially, it was almost like applying for any other class except you are required to write a proposal statement describing your research.  I actually enjoyed writing the statement; it was really simple.  You also fill out an independent study form, have the papers signed by your research instructor and the department chairperson, and take them to the Registrar's office.  Dr. Sussman was very helpful throughout the process.  She guided me in every step, and if not for her I could probably have missed the deadline.  I am receiving four credits for doing this research, and it's great to have this on my academic transript.

My faculty advisor, Dr. Sussman, plays an important role in my research experience.  She encourages me to get a head start on everything, which I find extremely beneficial.  She's also always available if I have any questions regarding the study, or anything else for that matter.

Aside from the research being quite interesting, it is the first study of this kind to be conducted in a certain way.  We are assessing cortisol levels, the stress hormone, using physiological measures rather than with self-reported measures as previous studies have done.  This is a more direct approach.

It is definitely a great experience working with other students and faculty.  It's nice meeting new people and everyone is friendly.  My role in this study is to observe and record naked mole rat behavior.  I observe two of the colonies at CSI for a couple of hours, watching carefully for any differences.  I share my findings in our weekly lab meetings.

If our research hypothesis is correct, our data findings will show that culture shock does occur and those who experience it are more stressed.  Although this study is conducted on an animal model, it will give us insight into the transition process among humans.  It will help us better understand the physiological phenomenon that affects millions of sojourners.

Taking part in this research study is helping me prepare for my honor's thesis, which will be the next step of this research.  Next year I will be investigating the phenomenon of culture shock and stress in humans.  

Nora Mahmoud

Nora will be presenting her research at the CSI Undergraduate Conference on Research, Scholarship, and Performance on Thursday, April 26th.  The conference will be held in 1P from 11:00-4:00.  Stop by to learn more about Nora's research and many other projects projects in which Verrazano and CSI students are involved! 
Research Conference website: http://www.csi.cuny.edu/ugconference/

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