Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Meet Cai Guo’s Mentors

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Cai is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Cai and his fellow scholars here.

Hello again! I’m a few days late, but Happy International Women’s Day!

In honor and celebration of this day, I would like to introduce my two mentors, Dr. Suman Ambwani and Dr. Rebecca Pearl, who have made great contributions to mental health issues that are particularly prevalent among women. Specifically, both of them are experts in the field of weight- and eating-related mental health.

cai advisorDr. Suman Ambwani is my On-Campus Advisor. She is now Associate Professor of Psychology at Dickinson College. She received her B.A. at Macalester College and her PhD from Texas A&M University. Dr. Suman Ambwani is particularly interested in eating disorder and how personality, interpersonal interactions, and social cognition are related to eating disorder. More recently, Dr. Ambwani has also become interested in weight stigma and the means by which we transmit the stigma.

I first heard of Dr. Ambwani from my friends who had taken her Psychopathology class and were all talking about how awesome she was. Later, I heard from another professor that Dr. Ambwani was known as one of the most popular psychology professors at Dickinson, and at that time her lab had the largest number of research assistants on campus.

Since so many people were talking about the awesomeness of Dr. Ambwani and so many students were working with her, she must be a really great person and teacher. Out of curiosity, I started digging more into Dr. Ambwani’s work, and I got more and more interested in her research.

At the end of my Sophomore year, I expressed my interest in working with her as a research assistant in her lab and she accepted me even though she did not need any new assistants at that time (I felt very honored). Since then, I have worked closely with her on a project on college women’s reactions to fat talk and developed the current project on internalization of weight bias.

cai mentorDr. Rebecca Pearl is my National Mentor. She is now Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She received her B.A. from Duke University and her PhD from Yale University, where I also worked in Summer 2015. Dr. Pearl is interested in weight bias, stigmatization, and the internalization of stigma. She is one of the authors of the Modified Internalization of Weight Bias Scale (WBIS-M), which is the core measure of my project.

I heard of Dr. Pearl when I was researching potential topics for my project. Since I had always been interested in social categories and stigma, I decided to combine both interests to study how people across all weight categories react to weight-based stigma. I then came across Dr. Pearl’s research on internalization of weight bias among normal weight people, which sounded both counterintuitive and very interesting.

After reading Dr. Pearl’s work, I decided to explore the same topic because it would be a great combination of my interests. I reached out to Dr. Pearl on ResearchGate and requested a lot of papers from her. She always responded so promptly and answered all my questions about her work and the topic in general. Her enthusiasm about this topic and willingness to help convinced me that she would be a fantastic mentor for my project.

And then, as you all now know, she generously accepted my request to serve as my national mentor! She has provided me with invaluable feedback regarding my study design and given me a lot of advice regarding what to expect and how I should handle potential difficulties in the process. I am looking forward to having more conversations with and learning more from Dr. Pearl!

I am very grateful that I have met these two wonderful mentors, and I am very confident that with their help, I will gain invaluable experience in the Emerging Scholars Fellowship and in the process of conducting my own project!

Project Update:
I finally started data collection! There’s A LOT OF food involved, and I sometimes steal from participants’ leftovers.

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