About Me—an introduction

Things to Know About Annie

Hi all! My name is Siyan (Annie) and I’m a rising senior double majoring in Psychology and History. I enjoy reading, building lego sets, and visiting museums. My favorite book recently is The Things We Carried by Tim O’Brien (a novel I read for Cold War class). Also, a fun fact about me is that I’m passionate about the color green.  

My Research

I’ve been working at the Environmental Context and Youth Mental Health lab (ECYMH) with Dr. Rachel Vaughn-Coaxum for the past year. The main focus of our lab is to study the association between childhood adversity and depression in adolescents. Childhood adversity, by definition, is “any exposure to abuse, neglect, or family dysfunction.” Studies have shown that experiencing adverse events leads to cognitive, emotional, and behavioral impairment in adolescence. Children exposed to childhood adversity are more likely to develop depressive symptoms in adulthood and be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder.   

On the other hand, research also indicates that low socioeconomic status is a form of adversity. Living in poverty affects children’s emotional development and cognitive functioning—many of them are less responsive to positive and negative cues than children with high SES. However, studies show that collecting SES data from adolescents is quite different from gathering data from adults. Concerning SES in psychological research, three dimensions are often measured: education, income, and occupation. But many children and adolescents cannot provide information on their parents’ income during interviews. Some research suggests using children’s pocket money as an indicator, but it has been discovered that pocket money is weakly correlated with the father’s occupation.  

As mentioned above, cognitive functioning is essential in a child’s development. Thus, it is vital to better understand how factors like SES affect cognitive functioning and psychological outcomes. My research aims to determine whether a more complex measurement of SES captures more information about how this form of childhood adversity is related to cognitive function and youth mental health than the commonly used and limited measure typical in psychological research. Thus, my research concentrates on developing a new measurement of socioeconomic status using publicly available data and information from parents and adolescents. By referring to methods of measuring socioeconomic status in sociology and health science, we intend to bring in more variables when evaluating our participants. Literature in related fields provides several potential indicators such as cars owned by the household, material possession, and whether the child possesses an individual bedroom. We also meant to retrieve information on the crime rate in the neighborhood to get a bigger picture of socioeconomic status.  

I’m honored to receive the Brackenridge fellowship. I also appreciate the effort and energy Dr. Vaughn-Coaxum put in during the application. Volunteering at the ECYMH lab is one of the best experiences at Pitt, and I look forward to continuing working with Dr. Vaughn-Coaxum the following year. 

Professional Goals

After graduation, I plan to take one or two gap years to gain more research experience and maybe in clinical settings. I believe that by participating in Brackenridge and immersing myself in an interdisciplinary environment, I would be able to concentrate more on my research while learning from my talented peers. Considering how competitive grad school is, I believe that working as a research assistant will help me learn more about my field of interest before making critical decisions and boost my possibility of being accepted. Most importantly, I would love a few more years of normal life before grad school—especially two years without excessive homework assignments and endless essays.

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