Baker University junior selected for Summer Science Fellowship
Already part of a prestigious honorary research fellow at Huntercombe Hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland, Baker University junior Lauren Breithaupt was recently selected to participate in a special program this summer. She was one of 12 college students — a record 450 applied — chosen for the American Psychological Association’s Summer Science Fellowship, which begins June 16 at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
Believing her chances of being accepted were slim because of the number of applicants, Breithaupt had started looking for other summer job opportunities. During spring break when her parents were visiting her in Scotland, she received an email notifying her of the selection.
“I was completely dumbfounded and read the e-mail about 10 times before being able to process the information,” she said.
After her initial excitement subsided, she notified Baker psychology professors Marc Carter and Sara Crump and former Baker professor Wendi Born.
“I thanked them for all of their help and support because they are the ones who have provided so much knowledge and support over the past few years,” she said of the professors.
At George Mason, she will partner with Robyn Mehlenbeck, who specializes in working with children with medical conditions, including eating disorders and diabetes. Mehlenbeck’s current research includes working with overweight teens to help them lose weight. Studying eating disorders is a perfect match for Breithaupt, who has passionately researched the topic since she was a high school student at Blue Valley Northwest.
“Research opportunities are hard to gain at small universities,” Breithaupt said. “Several graduate programs are now looking for a strong research background. These fellowship programs are perfect for students at Baker.”
Breithaupt has been interested in studying eating disorders and body image issues since high school. She and a psychologist founded REbeL, a student-led education and prevention program that addresses eating and body image concerns.
Valuable research experience
During the 2011-12 academic year, Breithaupt has been participating in an honorary research fellow at Huntercombe Hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland. In charge of updating the research database when patients are admitted and discharged from the hospital, she has gained valuable research and clinical experience as the honorary research assistant at the hospital.
As the semester comes to a close, she is working on completing personal research and editing the report in order to submit for publication. She also compiles the annual research report for the hospital.
Research appeals to Breithaupt. She enjoys compiling data that can figure into decisions, especially in health care.
“Research contains the potential to help a large amount of people with every new finding,” she said. “I have been amazed at how the quality of care can change from merging clinical work and ongoing research. Conducting research in a hospital setting causes both clinicians and researcher to make sure they are conducting the most ethical and efficient care for patients through a continuous flow of questions and knowledge collaboration.”
Her current research focuses on assessing the neuropsychological differences in anorexia nervosa patients due to the extremes in the behavioral component of the disorder. She is analyzing how the differences may relate to obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Huntercombe Hospital is involved with the ongoing Ravello Profile research, which is a neuropsychological battery used for patients with eating disorders to assess neuropsychological differences in anorexia nervosa. Her research project is an extension of the Ravello Profile and a preliminary attempt to explain why the differences occur. She came up with the idea after her experience working as a research assistant at Kansas City Center for Anxiety Treatment last summer.
“The beauty of research is the more you learn and the more you are exposed to, the more concrete research ideas you generate,” she said. “I think I love it because it is almost like getting paid to read and go to school.”
Life in Edinburgh
Breithaupt has adjusted to life in Edinburgh. She starts her day with a walk to the train station, a 20-minute train ride and 3.5-mile walk to the hospital — a sharp contrast from the three-minute walk on the Baldwin City campus from the Zeta Tau Alpha house to class. Once she arrives at the hospital, she helps arrange appointments with the patients throughout the day and meets new patients. She spends the rest of the day meeting with patients to collect psychometrics, assisting with group therapy, analyzing data and composing admission and discharge reports.
She also attends classes throughout the week, including two master’s-level classes. Most of her classes have between 50 to 100 students in a lecture hall.
“The majority of my classes were lecture based with a supplemental tutorial or discussion class,” she said. “However, since students are not used to discussing in class like we are at Baker University, the tutorials were often quiet and the professor had to do a lot of coaxing of information. The hardest adjustment was not communicating directly with the professor during the class. I was not used to just sitting in class, taking notes and listening without asking any questions.”
The Edinburgh experience is one Breithaupt will never forget.
“My favorite part about the experience is being able to interact and work with different people from around the world who are all working toward the similar goal of eating disorder treatment,” she said. “It has been amazing to gain insight on the different treatment methods and approaches from around the world and then to learn specifically how these ideas were developed through their own training and cultural influences. Through these experiences, I feel I have been able to develop a broader idea of treatment and research that I would have not been able to gain from staying in the States.”
While at Edinburgh, she has bumped into acquaintances from Baker. When she arrived in Edinburgh, former Baker professor Ryan Beasley, now a professor at the University of Edinburgh, was among the first people she saw. Robin Liston, assistant professor of music, was abroad at Harlaxton Manor in Grantham, England, during the fall semester. The two were able to meet for lunch one day.
“It was shortly after I had arrived to Edinburgh and I was so grateful to see another face from Baker,” she said.
“Experiences like these make me realize how large of a role Baker has played in my life and the lives of others and how strong of connections the University culture creates.”
Breithaupt returns to Kansas in late May. She will be in the Baldwin City area for a couple of weeks before heading to George Mason in mid-June for the fellowship program.
“Over the past seven months or so I have made amazing connections in Edinburgh and have really fallen in love with the city, culture and people,” she said. “But my friends and family are all in the Kansas City area and I cannot wait to see everyone and get back on campus. I love the atmosphere of campus created by all of the staff and students — a sense of community, which is one of the things I have missed the most.”