I never thought I would be passionate about research. I always pictured spending hours bent over a lab bench pipetting microliters of liquid between test tubes- an image that appeals to some, but most definitely not me. Why should I spend hours, years even, on a project that could be frustrating, tedious, and most likely inconclusive?
It took an eye-opening Peer Health Exchange presentation and an unforgettable trip to India for my perspective to change. Did you know that 2.4 billion people world-wide do not have access to a toilet? If not, it is okay- I didn’t know either. It absolutely blew my mind that there was this global focus on clean water initiatives, but I had never even heard that a third of the world’s population was living without proper sanitation. I kept asking myself how it was possible to push for clean water when it was just going to be contaminated by poor hygiene practices anyway. In fact, I had so many questions I began reading article after article about the detrimental impacts poor sanitation and hygiene have on everything from public health to gender equality to economics.
I had finally found something I wanted to know everything about, but soon ran out of answers for my ever-growing questions. When offered the opportunity to conduct independent research alongside a dialogue group traveling to Southeast Asia, I did something I never thought I would. I decided to apply and research existing sanitation/hygiene education initiatives, what makes them effective, and what barriers stand against implementation. With the help of an amazing group of peers and mentors I developed a solid research question, conducted interviews in foreign countries, and made a poster I can present at conferences. I learned so much more about a topic I am passionate about, how to interview, and about the research process in general.
But guess what? Sending out countless emails and getting no responses was frustrating. Narrowing down my research question far enough to be plausible was tedious. Coming back to Boston and realizing there is no singular answer to addressing the lack of sanitation/hygiene awareness made my research effectively inconclusive. Even with these hurdles, I truly enjoyed the last year I’ve spent consumed with this research. I met passionate people making real strides in the public health field that inspired me to continue my research outside the traditional SIRF timeframe. For someone that never thought they would be passionate about research, I am incredibly excited to continue this work.