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 Taylor Burke from Temple University, winner of the 2017 JCCAP Future Directions Launch Award. Tess’s award was presented for her research on suicide and self-injury among children and adolescents.
T&F: Tell us about your research.
Taylor Burke: My research in general seeks to inform the prediction and prevention of self-injurious thoughts and behaviors among this age group. One arm of my research looks at understanding the interplay of cognitive, effective, behavioral, environmental, and biological risk factors for self-injury. My dissertation specifically looks at better understanding those types of factors underlying the surge in non-suicidal self-injury in adolescents. I actually recently receive grant funding to use machine learning to enhance suicide risk assessment screening in pediatric healthcare settings, so primary care and emergency departments.
And then I'm also really interested in understanding the negative consequences of engaging in self-injury. You know, how one form of self-injury might lead to greater risk for future self-injury. Specifically, really interested in what makes it so that those who engage in non-suicidal self-injury, what makes it so that they're more likely to transition to suicidal self-injury, because we see this quite a bit.
Also, when individuals have engaged in non-suicidal self-injury, one of the outcomes often is scarring from the behavior, so I've really tried to understand kind of how individuals relate to their scarring, how that might in turn affect them psychologically, but also how that might affect their interpersonal relationships. So, recently have worked on a study looking at what stigmatization do these individuals face in their environment. Might that be another reason why we are seeing these individuals go on to start to engage in suicidal behaviors?
T&F: Can you describe the experience of being published for the first time?
TB: For my first first-authored article, I remember just checking my email again and again, hoping to hear back from the editor, and when I finally did and I got that good news, it just felt like such an accomplishment, and it was just an extremely reinforcing experience. So I think that that experience of accomplishment, kind of getting the final say that what you did was worthwhile and other people might be interested in reading it, it really has increased my dedication to research and wanting to publish more. But also, it's actually really made me more dedicated to getting postbac research assistants and first year, second year grad students on my projects with me, to kind of pass that on to others and kind of help ignite that motivation that it helped to ignite within me.
T&F: Do you have any advice for current early career researchers on how to publish?
TB: Find an area that you are extremely curious about and just simply internally motivated to learn about. Then two, to schedule writing blocks for yourself, and to make sure to not allow yourself to move those writing blocks when something comes up, because something always comes up, and it's really easy to not prioritize it, so really important to kind of stick that into your calendar and try to stick by it.
Taylor will be completing an internship at Brown University before her graduation.
T&F: Tell us a little about the internship and what you expect to work on.
TB: I'll be working at Brown, and I'm going to be in their clinical child track, so I'm going to be doing clinical work with high-risk youth. I'll be working at an inpatient unit, partial hospitalization unit, as well as in schools, with youth, many of whom have engaged in self-injury. I'll also be working with a research team here at Brown that studies the prediction and prevention of youth self-injury, so working with some experts in the field and really looking forward to learning from them.
T&F: How has mentorship played a role in your career thus far?
TB: I'd say that I was introduced to the field, actually, as a research assistant at Brown, with the research team that I'm going to be working with now. And that was kind of where I had my first experience with this research area, and my first kind of introduction to conducting empirical research. I worked with Dr. Anthony Spirito and Dr. Jennifer Wolff at that time, and they really were extremely encouraging, and wanted to listen to my ideas, even immediately after I graduated from college.
That really helped to increase my interest in the field, and then when I started at Temple, I began working with my mentor that I've been with for the past five years, Dr. Lauren Ellis. She has a number of huge R01s, and I got to see kind of how those large-scale studies are run, and my mentor was really wonderful in allowing me to conduct independent research during my graduate school career. I conducted three different studies, and she really allowed me to kind of learn how to be an independent researcher, which has been extremely helpful. So now I'm looking toward returning to those initial mentors that I had, and to continue to learn from them.