Grad student balances research and sorority life

By Ava Traverso, Technograph Editor

When the word ‘research’ comes to mind, one may think of lab coats, microscopes and complicated science experiments. Overall, the general feeling surrounding research can come off as unattainable and as a difficult community to break into.

In the changing world we live in, the exploration of science has become much more complex and diverse. The lives of grad students involved in research are extremely multi-faceted, with many different aspects besides research making up their lives. Some students have jobs outside of their research, are advisors for clubs or work for the University outside of their work. One route that some female grad students may take is being a Sorority house director. I spoke to one of these such students, Shelby Keye, to get an inside look into what her life on campus consists of.

Her academics: She is currently studying as a first-year Ph.D. student within the major of Kinesiology here at the University. Her specific focus is within body composition and neuroscience. For her undergraduate studies, she went to Virginia Tech for Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise and was a cheerleader there for two years. For her graduate degree, she studied Exercise Science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Her specific (current) study: She focuses on fat content, muscle content and bone density. She told me that her work takes a broader look at the science of body composition, but other scientists take a much more in-depth look at the specifics of it. She is studying how nutrition can affect brain function. Because she was hired by a professor here on campus, she was given the opportunity to take classes in order to work towards her Ph.D. The current project that she is involved in with this professor is working with old studies of the body composition of children to review the data for connections.

Her lab specifically looks into how exercise and nutrition affect body composition and brain function. She told me that the lab has members from multiple departments, such as nutritional science, neuroscience and kinesiology. They all work together on the same projects that are looking to find how different factors, such as exercise, physical activity and nutrition, shape the way our body composition forms and our cognition functions.

What she wants to end up doing: She wants to keep studying how different types of exercise and physical activity can affect motor functions, as well as cognitive functions. She said that PhD students generally start working on their own projects a little later into their student careers, so she is currently working on the project of her professor’s lab.

Outside of the lab: She currently works as house director for Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority’s chapter here on campus. While she was not involved with Greek life during her undergraduate studies, she says that she really enjoys living with the girls. While the juggling of a busy job, research and classes may seem daunting, Keye handles the workload with grace. She stated that the job was really great for a Graduate student schedule. She said that the position gives her a great balance between her work and her academics, allowing her to work in the lab during the day and only really come home and keep an eye on things at night.

Shelby is just one of the many students who show that research is for everyone and should be an option made available to students who desire to be involved. It goes to show that no one person fits this ‘scientist’ mold, and the diversity of the members within the research field has helped improve our findings and our scientific work as a society. No matter what your background, extracurriculars or interests may be, there is a research opportunity out there if you put in the work to look for it.

Ava is a Junior in ACES.

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