Exploring the “Inside” of Longitudinal Research
This summer Dela Scharff ’16 had the opportunity to travel to Bridgetown, Barbados, and intern with the Barbados Nutrition Study: a longitudinal study that has examined the effects of early childhood malnutrition on Bajans and their offspring over the last 40 years. Haverford’s Center for Peace and Global Citizenship sponsored Scharff’s self-designed internship. Scharff, a psychology and linguistics double major, has previously worked as a research assistant at Haverford for Associate Professors of Psychology Jennifer Lilgendahl and Benjamin Le. She was inspired to study psychology outside the U.S. after interning last year with a refugee resettlement agency in Lowell, Massachusetts.
This summer in Barbados, Scharff helped to examine data from a newly developed questionnaire and compare the findings to those of other instruments used in the study. “I like seeing the ‘inside’ of a longitudinal research project and thinking about the way the questionnaires and other instruments were constructed,” she says. She also gained key insights about research by accompanying nurses as they interviewed the study’s original participants and their children.
Scharff’s learning this summer also extended beyond work hours. Her supervisor gave her weekly Bajan cooking lessons and assigned research projects on national monuments, historical figures and events, and geographical landmarks. Barbados’ annual carnival, Cropover, took place during Scharff’s last days on the island.
“I have learned a tremendous amount about Barbados, about the world of research, and about myself,” Scharff say. She hopes to apply what she learned this summer by exploring more hands-on projects and examining different paths she can take with a psychology degree, including clinical work.
—Sam Fox ’14