Honors Student, Faculty Member Collaborate to Study How to Improve HIV Education
By William Lineberry
Isaiah Mamo wants to help reshape the way people become informed about HIV in hopes of helping shed the stigmas around the virus and leading to better prevention practices.
And this summer Isaiah, a rising Honors College Junior majoring in Political Science with a concentration in Civil Rights, is taking part in the Honors Summer Undergraduate Research Program (HSURP) to help research how to do just that. Through the undergraduate research program, Isaiah has been paired with Eli Coston, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies, to work collaboratively on the research project.
The goal of the project is simple: What is being done currently in regard to informing people about HIV and what can be done better. Together, Isiah and Coston are examining what sexual education programs are currently in place in schools and communitites, as well as what their specific approach is for educating people about HIV.
“Working with a professor on an individual basis for an entire large-scale project is something that often might not happen until upperclassmen courses, so having this experience developing a full project has been really informative, “ Mamo said. “Collaborating with someone like Professor Coston, who has specifically done research and advocacy surrounding LGBTQ+ issues, has allowed the project to work really well.”
Working with a professor on an individual basis for an entire large-scale project is something that often might not happen until upperclassmen courses, so having this experience developing a full project has been really informative.
Prior to working on this project, Mamo had studied LGBTQ+ inclusive education in high schools where he discovered that including LGBTQ+ topics and perspectives in social studies, art and sexual education classes make schools a better enviroment for the mental health of LGBTQ+ students.
This research interest paired well with Coston’s research interest which focuses on inequalities and disparities that LGBTQ+ people experience in healthcare.
“I think Isaiah’s project is incredibly important because it takes a holistic approach to HIV prevention,” Coston said. “There is a great deal of research on specific programs that work to reduce HIV transmission, but this project is about integrating evidence-based practices to generate a comprehensive set of recommendations.”
By the end of the summer, Mamo and Coston hope to have a list of suggestions for types of programs and curriculum that they feel should be implemented in schools and communities in order to better educate people about HIV, he said.
“I would also like to make a policy brief and utilize that to potentially do things like lobby with my research findings and suggestions,” Mamo said.
Coston feels that this project has the ability to unlock a new way of educating and creating awareness around HIV, they said.
“I think this project has the potential to shift how we think about service provision and involving the community in efforts around sexual health to better serve LGBTQ+ people,” Coston said.
I think this project has the potential to shift how we think about service provision and involving the community in efforts around sexual health to better serve LGBTQ+ people.
Mamo said his advice to current undergraduates debating on getting involved in research is simple: “Do it!”
“If you have a topic you might have learned things about from a class and you want to research it further, HSURP is a great opportunity to work closely with faculty in a way that expands upon what you learn in courses,” Mamo said. “I’d also say be open to meeting new people and faculty, since a large component of HSURP is working with a professor and attending workshops with your peers in the program.”
And likewise to Mamo, Coston encourages faculty to take on undergraduates for summer research projects through the program.
“I would say this a great opportunity to really be inspired by what our students are doing and what they can accomplish,” Coston said. “Let them run with their ideas and see what they come up with. Our students are incredibly capable, so give them guidance when they need it, but be open to the possibilities that they will dream up with their projects.”
To learn more about HSURP, reach out to Honors College Senior Associate Dean and Director of Academic & Faculty Affairs, Jacqueline Smith-Mason, Ph.D.