Alumna Thanks Psychology Professor for Making a Difference in Her Career Trajectory
It is always nice to hear success stories from our College of Arts and Sciences alumni, so we thought we would share part of a thank you note that Karin Coifman, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, recently received from one of her former students, Rachel Mason, who recently accepted a doctoral fellowship at Ohio State University.
“Throughout the reflection required for my PhD applications, I kept coming back to something you had off-handedly said to me in a meeting, along the lines that you prefer to have doctoral applicants with several years of experience. I took that to heart and sought out a variety of research experiences to figure out what aspects of research or topics I enjoyed. Thus, I wanted to take a moment to send you a quick update and to sincerely thank you for your guidance, particularly as a first-generation student. It is difficult for me to imagine what I would be doing now if I had not had your support and guidance as an undergraduate.”
Rachel is currently a Clinical Research Associate at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus. She earned her undergraduate degrees (BS in Psych and BA in Spanish Literature, Culture, and Translation) from Kent State in 2017 and a Master of Public Health degree in Epidemiology (concentration in Maternal and Child Health) from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2019.
She said that Coifman has made quite a difference in the trajectory of her career. She worked in her research lab from August 2013 to December 2015 and they met several times to discuss her career interests.
“Rachel was always an impressive and highly motivated student,” Coifman said. “She came to my lab as a freshman and was bright and eager to learn. She worked hard and we met several times as she approached the end of her years at Kent to help her to find the right fit for graduate school. I am so proud of what she has accomplished and feel really grateful that I was able to work with her while she was an undergrad at Kent State.”
After the completion of her doctorate in Health Services Research and Policy, Rachel aspires to address women's health inequalities through community-based interventions and mixed methods research. She hopes to become a principal investigator at an academic medical center where she can direct research projects, become a mentor to young scientists, and teach.
Advice to current students
When asked if she had any advice for students coming up through the program, Rachel said: “First and foremost, your health (physical, mental, spiritual, etc.) is the most valuable resource you have. I recommend carving out time to tend to those facets of your life, despite how busy being a student can be.
As it relates to research, be patient with yourself. Research is hard and each part of the process is important -- whether you find yourself doing monotonous tasks or conducting study visits or writing up results for a publication. My personal approach was to accept positions in research settings where I found the research interesting and learn all the skills that I could. I used to believe that I had to know exactly what I wanted to study before I could make any progress, which is not true. Each experience builds on one another. Maybe you will discover that research does not quite do it for you after all and that is also excellent information to know about yourself.
Finally, regardless of your next steps, find mentors who care about your wellbeing and are invested in your success. It can be daunting, but from my own experience as a first-generation student, that level of support is essential.”
Congrats Rachel and thanks for sharing your outstanding feedback and advice!