For Psychology professor Dr. Gagan “Mia” Khera, academic research is all about community.
During her own undergraduate experience, Dr. Khera conducted research examining the experience of South Asian American women, particularly their identity and body image. Twenty-five years later, she’s thrilled to jump back to her study, but this time with the help of a pair of Curry College seniors.
“I'm a firm believer in sense of community, and I like to have a team feel when I'm doing my research,” Dr. Khera said. “I am excited to collaborate with faculty at other institutions, but I mostly love pulling in undergraduate students.”
Psychology seniors Amber Buttaro and Sophia Imbrescia are fully immersed in the research experience and are helping Dr. Khera locate participants from the study conducted nearly three decades ago. Both students have been also diving into the psychological research reading about life’s changes such as parenting, body image and body satisfaction, overall life trajectory, and more.
“As someone who is planning on going to graduate school in the future, this research experience with Dr. Khera is extremely beneficial for me,” said Buttaro, who is also minoring in Criminal Justice and Sociology. “Research allows me to gain more confidence in the psychology field and is helping me build my skills for future job opportunities.”
Dr. Khera was recently awarded a grant from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) to fund her research, which will be the focus of her sabbatical this coming fall. Her study, officially titled, Changes in body image, disordered eating and identities among South Asian American women: A 25-year longitudinal study will include help and support from her students, getting that sense of community and relationship-building she strives so hard to achieve at Curry.
“This experience is so important because it has taught me research skills such as coding, data searching, and more,” said Imbrescia. “It’s also given me a chance to explore something of interest to me and work alongside Dr. K. while growing a relationship with her that I will take with me forever.” This fall, Imbrescia will start her medically focused education journey, and credits Curry for preparing her with all the prerequisites and practice needed to succeed.