One day, Naila Tagoilelagi hopes to join the medical field. But along the way, she wants to help other women pursue meaningful careers in STEM, too — and break down the obstacles that women face in STEM careers every day.
Tagoilelagi, a junior biology and psychology double major, is conducting a yearlong research project with Elizabeth Daniels, Associate Professor of Psychology. Together, Tagoilelagi and Daniels are working to determine intervention and coping strategies for women facing negative impacts by working in male-dominated industries, like those in STEM fields.
“Our research aims to help encourage women to stay in STEM, as well as overcome any adversities they may have faced in the field,” Tagoilelagi said. “Due to the negative impact that the field may have on women, we want to find strategies to help women cope and remain in STEM for the entirety of their careers.”
Tagoilelagi answered eight questions about her research, her partnership with Daniels and her best advice for students interested in future research opportunities.
1. What was your path to UCCS and working with your faculty mentor?
I live in the Springs, so UCCS was my first choice, plus I love the campus. I enjoy the smaller size of the campus as compared to other universities, and it’s beautiful!
I was referred to this project through the Honors program. I spoke to Dr. Daniels through email, and we started working together.
2. If you were describing your research/creative work to someone outside of your field, what would you say?
I would tell them that our work is to determine the impact of STEM being a male-dominated field and to find intervention strategies to help women cope with any struggles they may have. Our research aims to help encourage women to stay in STEM, as well as overcome any adversities they may have faced in the field.
3. Which concept or discovery from your research/creative work most excites, invigorates or inspires you?
The concept of helping women is what inspires me because I would love for more women to be in STEM. Eventually, I think it would help STEM become a more rich and diverse field. I would love to break the barrier that prevents women from joining the field.
4. Describe how and why this research/creative work was started.
This research was started to find out if sexual predation is pervasive in STEM, seeing as the field is typically male-dominated. We’re also looking for the outcomes and impact on all of us, and specifically women. Due to the negative impact that the field may have on women, we want to find strategies to help women cope and remain in STEM for the entirety of their careers.
5. What has the experience of working with your faculty mentor and fellow researchers been like?
The experience has been really fun! Although we’ve been working remotely, I think it is a good learning experience, especially as a woman who is in STEM.
6. How has this work helped prepare you for your future in graduate school or your career?
This work is helping me understand the research process, which will help me in my pursuit of going to medical school. I am learning how to read through a dataset and determine themes that are significant to the study. In the future, if I were to conduct research, I think that I would look back on this experience and use all the skills I have gained from it.
7. What has been the most memorable part of working on this project with your faculty mentor?
The most memorable part is reading through all the heartbreaking entries that were submitted into the survey. It is unfortunate that there were so many stories to read, but I hope to be able to help others in the future.
8. What advice would you give first-year students who are interested in working with a faculty mentor?
Don’t be afraid to apply to the research academy! It is a valuable and enriching experience. Research is something everyone should try at least once and you may like it!
The Undergraduate Research Academy encourages UCCS students to expand their education beyond the classroom through participation in research and creative projects while engaging in mentorship with UCCS faculty. The yearlong collaborative research projects further students’ professional and academic development while furthering faculty members’ research program goals.
UCCS celebrates this year’s cohort of Undergraduate Research Academy student and faculty researchers. All those interested in participating should visit the Undergraduate Research Academy website for more information.