ARIA Spotlight: Suki Wang

My ARIA research project consisted of a literature review investigating the dimensions of quality of life in autistic adolescents and adults, and what are the predictors concerning the quality of life in that population. After identifying those predictors in a literature review, I investigated further by looking at how individual characteristics compare to environmental factors when it comes to predicting quality of life.

I began to be interested in an ARIA project through reading past ARIA recipients’ reports on the AIO website. I was at the time volunteering in the lab with my current supervisor, and the ARIA project presented an important opportunity for me to go deepen my research experience through a summer intensive project. As I am planning to enroll in a research course in my next academic year, I find it important to gain as much exposure as I can on the research process and on the mechanisms behind developing and exploring a research question.

My learning objectives were to familiarize myself with the research process and exposing myself to different types of research measures. The plan was also to be able to explore an in-depth research question in relationship to the broader research going on in the lab in the form of a literature review, looking at how individual characteristics and environmental factors work as predictors for well-being of autistic adolescents and adults. We are hoping to put these findings as a base for a full-blown year-long research project for my thesis course.

As my ARIA project is deeply linked to our current project going on in the lab, one of the highlights remain testing participants as part of our data collection. During those sessions, I was able to talk with autistic adolescents and apply questionnaires concerning their well-being, which gives me a personalized understanding of my research question. Another highlight is presenting my project to my lab members. It was a very stressful but rewarding experience, where I presented my findings in my literature review, as well as how my research question relates to our current ongoing project in our lab. It is very intellectually stimulating, as it links many of the theories that I have learned so far into practice, and it is interesting to be explore the process of condensing my learnings into a presentation.

I have encountered many challenges when it comes to formulating a good outline for my ARIA project. Luckily, I really benefited from my weekly supervisory meetings, and the guidance given by my professor has immensely helped me to organize my outline in a structured manner. I also received help when reviewing certain research papers for my literature review, such as helping me how to identify the main points and summarizing the tables in the findings section, as it is my first time conducting a literature review. Overall, I am very grateful to many of my lab members, who were able to answer any questions I have on my project, as well on how to prepare for my presentation on my findings by the end of the summer.

My ARIA project has helped me better understand the stages of the human subject research process, as well as working in a lab environment. It has given me the tools to quickly and effectively know where and how to research on a specific topic and allowed me to conduct a full and extensive literature review on the subject. It also helped me to have a solid foundation for my upcoming thesis course in the next academic year. I believe the research skills and experience I have gained are important assets for my future as a possible clinician in the field of psychology and linguistics, and graduate school applications. I am also happy to have made connections with my fellow students in the lab, as well as with our grad and PhD students. This has been a rewarding experience through and through, and I hope to continue bettering my skills in the following semester.

I am grateful to the Art Undergraduate Society who have generously funded my Award for my ARIA project this summer. I would also like to thank my supervisor, Dr. Aparna Nadig, for reaching me out for this amazing opportunity, as well as to my grad student supervisor Jovia Wong, and PhD student Nariman Amantayev for their help and guidance throughout the summer.

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