Summer Research Fellow Spotlight Madeline Williams
"The study of loneliness is an interdisciplinary field that aims to understand loneliness and its connection to a variety of topics including social isolation and depression. Most studies aim to add to the existing knowledge by addressing what loneliness is, who is lonely, why they are lonely, what the different effects of loneliness are, and how to solve this issue from the societal down to the individual level. At the start of Spring 2020, I originally intended to pilot a project that studied loneliness in relation to living arrangements in college students. However, due to the coronavirus, face-to-face interaction will not be possible during that time, and most college students will not be living on campus. These changes in living conditions have necessarily changed my plans to pilot a loneliness research project. After analyzing the interview data, I hope to have a greater understanding of how people’s lives have changed due to social distancing and more specifically how social distancing has impacted one’s feeling of social connection to others."
Q: How did you first get interested in undergraduate research at UK?
A: "It began with a small class project freshman year, I studied dating applications and hook up culture in my WRD 112 class. I became interested in understanding human interaction and social media."
Q: How long have you been engaged in undergraduate research?
A: "I have been engaged in undergraduate research since my freshman year."
Q: Describe what a typical day of remote summer research activity looks like for you. How does this differ from your pre-COVID research activity?
A: "I spend the majority of my day sorting through literature in order to understand the major theories and models within the field of loneliness. I am also finishing the final edits on my IRB protocol before it is sent off for approval. My faculty advisor and I meet over Zoom once a week to discuss the completion of different tasks. The major difference between pre-COVID and my current situation is that I have had to alter the ways I collect data and the types of data I am researching. Originally, I intended to conduct in-person interviews to understand the relationship between loneliness and living situations. I quickly switched to studying loneliness during mass social distancing due to COVID-19. This rare phenomenon is a unique opportunity to study loneliness in a time of mass social distancing where many subjects are easily reachable due to technology such as FaceTime, Skype, and Skype. The social sciences are even more important now in a time where many are unable to access their normal social support groups and are having difficulties with their mental health."
Q: What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?
A: "I enjoy sorting and reading through literature in the field of sociology and psychology. It has been really interesting to learn how scholars are able to measure and conceptualize abstract and individual experiences such as loneliness. My professor and I are new to the field of loneliness and learning about it together has been great."
Q: What advice would you give to other UK students thinking about doing research?
A: "UK has a lot of resources to assist in planning and executing a research project. I would advise other students to look into these resources and ask their faculty advisor about other ways they can improve and fund their research."
The UK Office of Undergraduate Research's Summer Research & Creativity Fellowship program provides undergraduates with the opportunity to study in a wide variety of disciplines while doing intensive and self-directed research under the supervision of a faculty mentor.