Olivia Diggs

Olivia Diggs discovers herself through research

Today, Olivia knows exactly what career she wants and the goals she needs to achieve to get there. However, this hasn’t always been the case.

“After a hard transition from Morningside College to Iowa State University (ISU), endless major changes in undergrad, and even trying out the Air Force ROTC program at ISU, I finally made Ames my home for the next four years,” Olivia said.

Finding research is how Olivia made Iowa State her home. As an undergraduate student, Olivia emailed Tricia Neppl, an associate professor in human development and family studies, looking for research work. Just like that, Olivia found herself doing data entry in Neppl’s lab.

“I am fully invested in the Family Transitions Project (FTP), a 28-year longitudinal study that has followed families since 1989, for which Neppl is the project director,” Olivia said.

This project, which focused on family stress, made a connection to Olivia’s research interest of substance use, specifically parental and peer influences. Through this on-going study and as part of her undergraduate Honors project, Olivia attended a conference in Miami, Florida to present her findings.

“I went to the conference to present the research at a poster session, and remember looking around at all of the graduate students and top-tier researchers in the field, and saying, ‘I want to be one of them someday,'” Olivia said. “I remember thinking that I felt at home doing research and disseminating results to help further the field of human science.”

Research makes Olivia feel like she is part of something bigger than just herself. Her accomplishments prove that out, as her article was selected for publication in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

One simple step led Olivia to find her calling in the lab.  She encourages other students to take that chance as well.

“All it took for me to be involved was an email,” Olivia said. “You just have to go for it. Send the email. Talk to the professor. They’re interested in people who are interested in them. Even graduate students are more than willing to help you get involved.”

For a more in-depth look at Olivia’s research, students and faculty are invited to view her article in the Journal of Adolescent Health, co-authored by Tricia Neppl, Shinyoung Jeon, and Brenda Lohman.
“I am so grateful for the mentorship and collaboration that occurred for this paper to be published in such a high-impact, academic journal,” Olivia said.