Kenny is a research coordinator in the Reading Dyslexia Research Program here at Stanford. We sat together in the education building for a chat about his experience research and hopes to continue his studies in graduate school.
Written by: Max A. Sala
What motivated you to join the lab?When I was an undergraduate, I worked in a lab that ran research studies working with children. One of the projects I assisted with involved visiting a preschool to determine the success of a tablet game that measured word recognition ability in pre-reading students. The intention of the study was to see if introducing a word recognition activity to pre-reading children would aid in their reading development. But what stuck with me was how much I enjoyed working directly with kids. I joined the BDE Lab because the nature of Jason’s research provides an environment where I can pursue research in developmental neuroscience while continuing to work with children. I was also drawn to the lab due to its collaborative nature—since the lab is at an intersection between pediatrics, psychology, neuroscience and education. I also feel fortunate because our engagement with families pushes us to consider the practical application of our work.
Tell us about your role in the lab. I’m a research study coordinator, which means I’m managing multiple projects for the lab. At the heart of the job are tasks related to recruitment and logistics, so in this way the position can also be viewed as a support role. We’re constantly thinking about how we can improve our systems—like recruitment or data collection methods—often by making them more efficient for public users and researchers. Though there’s always additional opportunities in the lab as well. With the downturn in research activity during the pandemic last year, I took up Jason’s suggestion to create my own experiment. What began as a casual literature review during the shelter-in-place has now grown into a large-scale project using a browser-based reading assessment in children—a measure of word recognition we’ve labeled “ROAR”— which now involves several, amazing lab members that are leading the helm for the project. We’ve completed multiple validation studies since then and are rolling out the assessment to several local school sites, which is very exciting!
You’re applying to doctoral programs this year. What motivated this decision?Yes, I’m applying to pursue the interests I’ve been developing while at the BDE lab. I’ve been fortunate to get a wide scope of experience here at the lab, especially with MRI techniques, and Jason’s great about providing us the freedom to pursue our own interests, so I feel well prepared for this next step!