Students Co-Author Paper During Summer Internship and Get Published

February 03, 2020

A summer internship helped psychology major Ben Nguyen ’19 and math and economics double major Ridhika Agrawal ’20 earn co-author status on a recently published paper.

Nguyen, Agrawal, and two other Grinnell students, Carlton Segbefia ’21 and Aditi Munshi ’19 were offered internships with a mobile health startup in Los Angeles as members of its behavioral data science team during summer 2019.

mPulse Mobile is trying to improve outcomes for underserved and hard-to-reach populations. Those populations include people on Medicaid and Medicare, who are often lower income, older, more vulnerable, and more isolated. Uncovering the needs and barriers related to health behavior and communications for these populations was crucial.

The Center for Careers, Life, and Service connected the students with the internship opportunity. It was a chance for them to apply their critical and creative thinking skills to real problems.

“I was able to learn a new programming language, Python, and about techniques such as natural language processing,” Nguyen says.

Nguyen worked with Agrawal on a study about patients refilling their prescriptions. The work included cleaning and preparing data, data analysis and modeling, literature reviews, and writing. Their contributions earned them co-author status on a paper recently published in JMIR mHealth uHealth. The study is titled “Impact of Social Determinants of Health and Demographics on Refill Requests by Medicare Patients Using a Conversational AI Text Messaging Solution: Cross-Sectional Study.”

Nguyen’s experience at mPulse and the development of his “quantitative, programming, and writing skills has been immensely valuable in applying to graduate schools,” he says. He’s in the midst of applying to programs in cognitive psychology where he can get training in both traditional and cutting-edge statistical techniques.

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