The JCCAP Future Directions Forum presents professional development training for early career researchers and showcases interdisciplinary research in child and adolescent mental health. This JCCAP Q&A features Sunny Bai from the University of California, Los Angeles, winner of the 2017 JCCAP Future Directions Launch Award. Sunny’s award was presented for her research on clinical child and adolescent assessment.
T&F: Tell us about your research.
Sunny Bai: In my research, I am really interested in understanding how adolescents’ daily experiences at school and at home and throughout the night contribute to psychopathology and, specifically, internalizing symptoms. I'm interested in assessment because I like to utilize creative, naturalistic methods to really, really understand what teens' daily lives look like.
Sunny has coauthored a paper that appeared in JCCAP: “Individual Differences in Optimum Sleep for Daily Mood During Adolescence.” Her fellow researchers included Andrew J. Fuligni, Jennifer L. Krull, and Nancy A. Gonzales.
T&F: Can you describe the study and its results?
SB: We were really interested in trying to assess whether sleep and sleep recommendations would be a one-size-fits-all thing or if we need to tailor recommendations for teens. So, this was one of the first attempts to really assess whether teens vary in sleep need. So for example, one teen may feel their best when they sleep about nine hours a night. Another teen might feel their best when they sleep about seven hours a night. So, that's what this particular paper was about. Specifically, we found that children or teens who have more internalizing symptoms, so symptoms of anxiety and depression, needed more sleep to feel their best.
T&F: Do you have any advice for current early career researchers on how to publish?
SB: One thing that helped me was to just keep writing and rewriting and writing again. There was certainly many times when I wanted to stop writing, but it really does feel good when it's done and submitted, so just keep going. As far as looking for right outlets to publish, I think one advice that I got was to look at where the papers I was citing came from because you're more likely to cite from journals that are relevant to your topic of research. I certainly cite the SCCAP journal quite a bit in my work, and I think it's a really great outlet for work in developmental psychopathology and clinical psych.
T&F: Can you describe your trajectory out of graduate school and into the job market?
SB: That transition was really actually kind of fast and a little bit overwhelming. As a clinical psych student, I, of course, have to do a clinical internship, and I did it at UCLA, where I had completed grad school. The internship allowed me to meet some additional mentors outside of psychology, more in psychiatry, and I stayed on to do a T32, postdoctoral fellowship in suicide research, actually. I wanted to study children at higher risk and take my research in that direction. From there, I actually went on the job market during the first year of postdoc and accepted an offer to be an assistant professor at the Penn State University in their Department of Human Development and Family Studies. I'm very excited about that. I'm going to be starting there on July 1st. And certainly, all my mentors throughout grad school and those I met at the conference last year were incredibly helpful. I talked to a lot of people and … it was a really tough process. It was a lot of work to go on the job market, and I felt really grateful to have so many people that I could ask questions to.