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Student Success Research: Investigating Medical Errors

Riyana Dasgupta

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Research can deepen students’ passion for a subject, challenging them to search for answers to complex questions.  It permits students to be creators of knowledge, and not simply recipients of past ideas.  This Q&A explores the role research can play for CHASS undergraduates.

Riyana Dasgupta is a senior majoring in psychology.

What/who sparked your interest in this research?

The psychology classes here at NC State, especially social psychology and the PSY 240 research methods series, sparked my interest. Attempting to answer the age-old question — Why do people do the things they do? — is why I became a psychology major, and this has contributed to my interest in research as well.

 What is your research about?

In summer 2014, I was a research assistant at the UNC Chapel Hill Radiation Oncology Department of UNC Health Care. I helped Drs. Lukasz Mazur and Prithima Mosaly research the likelihood of practitioners’ errors when retrieving medicine from the computers at UNC Hospital. I helped analyze the data on a computer application called CogTool. I had never been exposed to these types of applications, but I was ready to learn and excited to see where our research would take us.

How do you feel the research relates to your major, career goals, and/or personal interests?  

A practitioner’s error when retrieving medicine is a human error. Studying humans and their behavior is essentially what psychology is! This also is relevant to my career goals because I would like to go on to graduate school to ultimately become a psychologist/clinician. Research is pertinent to psychology and getting hands-on experience is so valuable.

What are some things you have learned?

I have learned that a research project is a tough endeavor for a student (or professor!) to take on. It requires diligence and patience. My mentors  andsupervisors for this project assisted me whenever I did not understand something while analyzing the data, and they have supported me throughout my senior year/post-grad endeavors.

What were some of the challenges?

When inputting the data to be analyzed, honestly, I had no idea where to begin.  CogTool was a brand new application for me, so I was unsure of how or where to start. However, I have learned that it is always better to ask questions, no matter how inconsequential they may seem. My supervisors and mentors were glad that I asked questions and that I was eager to learn.

 What about rewards?

Getting hands-on experience has been incredibly beneficial for me, as I have learned so much in terms of research methods and working in a hospital on a college campus. It has definitely reaffirmed my interest in becoming a clinician. Furthermore, after researching and analyzing data over the summer, my research supervisors and I are preparing a journal article for publication. This goes to show that if you put in the effort, you will see results.