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Natural Sciences Researchers Win President’s Award for Global Learning

Sep 17, 2021

Five teams with College of Natural Sciences students were honored this year with the President’s Award for Global Learning, which aims to highlight innovative solutions to global problems and give interdisciplinary teams of faculty and students the opportunity to take those projects to international sites.

The Case for Connections

One team, with two CNS undergraduates — neuroscience student Thomas Dang and nutrition student Mariana Rendon Flores, both of whom are juniors — is studying the relationship between undergraduates’ mental health and their social support networks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project, titled “The Case for Connections,” focuses on undergraduate students at the University of Texas at Austin and in two universities in Mexico City, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). The team worked with students and professors from both universities to conduct their research.

“Our study is 100% binational — it would not be possible without the help and expertise of our partners in Mexico,” said Thomas Dang, one of the undergraduates on the team.

Prior to their trip, they conducted a survey asking students about their unique set of social support networks, their academic stressors and their demographics.

“We worked with our team in Mexico to make sure that these questions were culturally sensitive, since different populations have different ways of perceiving the stigma of academic stress and mental health,” Dang said.

Based on the data collected through the survey, the team found first-generation students experienced higher academic stress and lower social support during the pandemic, Dang said. He said female students also experienced higher academic stress during the pandemic.

“Focus groups have been my favorite part of the project, but also the most difficult part,” Dang said. “We wanted to explore the stories behind the data.”

Read the full story at https://cns.utexas.edu/news/natural-sciences-researchers-win-president-s-award-for-global-learning-1 


Members of the "Case for Connections" team in the UT President's Award for Global Learning. Sep 17, 2021
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