Soraya Davia credits her research with helping her determine her future educational and career goals. After her experience working with children with autism spectrum disorder, she determined to go on to law school and work to help create a better community for them. She says that her real-world research experience also gave her the tools to increase her leadership and interpersonal skills, along with helping her excel in her academic work. Sorayaís dedication to her research led to her being awarded the 2015 Chancellorís Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research for the School of Social Ecology.

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?

I conduct research in the Psychology and Social Behavior department, under the guidance of Dr. Wendy Goldberg and Dr. Angela Lukowski. My research over the past couple years has primarily involved children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). I have worked with this special population in both the UC Irvine Family Lab and the UC Irvine Memory and Development Lab.

2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

When I transferred to UCI at the beginning of my junior year, I knew that I wanted to get involved in research. I felt that doing so would allow me to get more experience in my field and get a better idea of which career path I would want to pursue after college. After learning a little more about the research opportunities available at UCI through the UROP office, I began reviewing the online profiles of the faculty in the School of Social Ecology. I learned more about the professors whose work I found the most interesting and rewarding, and emailed those whose work I was most excited about. I was fortunate enough to hear back from the professor whose work interested me most (Dr. Goldberg) and from there, I was able to begin working with her research team.

3. How has research enhanced your education?

Research has taught me to take charge of my education. Over the past couple years, I have worked with the UC Irvine Family Lab on a group study and have also had the opportunity to work on two independent studies. Few experiences teach you more about leadership skills, patience, and interpersonal skills than projects like these. Additionally, research has enriched my experiences in my other academic courses. In the process of conducting research, I gained the literacy needed to fully appreciate scholarly text. Reading about various studies and trying to memorize how each studyís pieces connect is one way of learning. Inherently understanding these details without memorization because of oneís personal experience with research is another (much better) way.

4. What has been your favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?

I canít pick just one, but my best memories all include the people I got to work with. I made some wonderful friends through the Family Lab, the Memory and Development Lab, and the Social Ecology Honors Program. I also had the privilege of working with some amazing professors, and (last but certainly not least) children with ASD and their families.

5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

I will attend law school after I graduate. Being involved in research was what made me realize that I wanted to pursue law in the first place. I was interested in several different career paths before I began research. Interacting with children with ASD and learning about the setbacks they (and others with mental health conditions) face in living their best lives made me realize that I want to be a health lawyer and help create a better community for these people.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?

Donít limit yourself with self-doubt. Keep an open mind and take an active role in your education!

Past Researchers of the Month

Dec. '15 Ka Hei (Eric) Chan
Nov. '15 Timna Medovoy
Oct. '15 Soraya Davia
Sep. '15 Amanda Nili
Aug. '15 Soo Song
Jul. '15 Tian Harrison
Jun. '15 Rommel Santos
May. '15 Mariyah Saiduddin
Apr. '15 Angel Rodriguez
Mar. '15 Sarah Tang
Feb. '15 Jay Tolentino
Jan. '15 Yuhao Ma