Dhruvi Chauhan started research before her second year at UC Irvine, and credits her experience with expanding the quality of her undergraduate education. Her research had given deeper meaning to the knowledge she has gained in her classes, and helped her see how that knowledge applies to the real world. Being involved in research has increased her passion for her field, and given her a clearer focus on her future academic and career goals. UROP is pleased to recognize Dhruvi for her passionate pursuit of undergraduate research.

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

My area of research is the public health field. This year, I am enrolled in the Public Health Honors Research Program, and will be conducting my own senior thesis, under the mentorship of my faculty advisor, Dr. Mojgan Sami. I am researching the sociocultural and structural barriers immigrant women on our campus may face when discussing and accessing reproductive healthcare services. This project builds on my past two years of undergraduate research experience by giving me the tools to think about my research questions in intersectional, social justice-oriented frameworks.

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

I got involved in research at the end of the summer before my second year as an undergraduate at UC Irvine. I am immensely grateful that I got the opportunity to become involved so early on. I simply reached out to one of my TAs during a summer class I was taking for my public health major and I met Dr. Sami. Since then, I have been able to work on a variety of projects in the public health field, culminating in my ability to apply for the honors research program and conduct my own research this year for my senior thesis.

3. How has research enhanced your education?

Research has provided me the tools to see and evaluate the knowledge I learn in my classes in the world. Research also showed me the complexity of health issues and health disparities. There are many challenges the most marginalized populations face in accessing and assessing their health, and being able to see these challenges directly through my research inspires me even more to join the ranks of the amazing scholars who are thinking critically and radically about how to traverse these barriers.

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

One of my favorite experiences with research was presenting my first poster—which I also presented at the 2016 UCI Undergraduate Research Symposium—at the 2016 American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting’s Poster session in Denver, CO. It was fascinating to not only experience and travel to a new city, but also to think about our health research—related to access to park space and active transportation infrastructure—in the contexts of exploring Denver’s streets and parks. Denver will always have a special place in my heart because of this opportunity.

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

I hope to continue conducting research for many years to come, and my ultimate goal is to become a professor in the field of reproductive justice, health policy, and global disparities and oppressions. After I graduate this year, I hope to gain valuable research experience at the policy level through several fellowships I am applying for, and to use my research and critical skills in any job or position I pursue before getting my Ph.D. UROP and the encouraging research environment at UCI have definitely influenced these goals by showing me how much I love to contribute to knowledge and think about global and local challenges in a critical way.

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

I would advise any student interested in pursuing faculty-mentored research to talk to your mentor and other mentors about your ideas, and simply dive into it! I have learned so much and had such a diversity of experiences because of my involvement in research, and I could not have experienced these events if I did not dive in with an open mind, despite all my uncertainties and lack of knowledge. I would also advise students to be open minded about projects they are handed or assigned to, but to always keep in mind their own ideas and interests and constantly work on finding a way to pursue, hone, and develop their own original research project. I have learned from research that every question, framed in different ways, can yield more and more information about a field or topic—no matter how thoroughly researched one believes the topic is already. I would also advise a student not to become discouraged by the scope of literature on a particular research topic or question; there is always more to explore. More knowledge provides more perspectives, especially the perspectives of marginalized voices and groups. Constantly reframing and asking the research questions, which have already been asked in different ways, can be a matter of uplifting voices seldom heard.

Past Researchers of the Month

Dec. '17 Dhruvi Chauhan
Nov. '17 Rodolfo (Rudy) Medina
Oct. '17 Belen Miranda Cairo
Sep. '17 Gabrielle Banner
Aug. '17 Sharon To
Jul. '17 Samantha Ku
Jun. '17 Zachary Valley
May. '17 Julianna Cressman
Apr. '17 Navid Reza Ghaffari
Mar. '17 Martha Arhemi Morales
Feb. '17 Jafar Al Souz
Jan. '17 Joseph Mehrabi