My name is Alex Woertz. I am from Corydon, Indiana and I am going to be a Junior studying Neuroscience at IU. My long-term career goal is to be an OB/GYN.
I became passionate about Neuroscience after I read a book called the Female Brain. It talked about how all the data on neurology and psychology focuses on males, and how there is very little research done on female brains. I was always interested in neuroscience, but this book really pushed me to pursue the field. I find the lack of research done on female brains to be infuriating, given that they make up half of the population, so I chose this discipline to learn and perhaps contribute research to field.
I applied to my lab during my first week freshman year and it was such a great environment to be a part of. Since it was my first semester at IU, I was trying out everything and meeting new people and finding my community. This lab was so welcoming and inclusive and was eager to take in students with no research experience and teach them about conducting research. My faculty that looks over this project is Dr. James Clawson. He is a great mentor and is so patient and willing to teach all his undergraduates.
To find this opportunity, I went to a call out that was emailed to me about labs looking for volunteers. I definitely recommend checking emails and fliers around campus for labs looking for volunteers. Joining a lab can be intimidating, especially having no experience prior. But the only way to learn is to jump right in! Usually the faculty member running the lab is more than willing to help teach how to research!
My lab decided to start my current research project in the spring of my sophomore year. The lab focuses on healthcare journeys with a focus on women’s health. I wanted to take on my own research project so Dr. Clawson suggested I take on a project about menstrual sharing. He paired me with another lab group member and we started our work right before spring break.
I was motivated to begin this project because I have always been super interested in women’s health. I grew up in a rural community where women’s health and education about women’s health was not available or talked about. There were no women’s clinics in my area and my school did not provide resources for girls to become educated on their bodies or sexual health. I think the lack of resources is what really drove me to do research in this field. I would want other young women in rural communities like mine to have access to information and resources.
Women’s health is an important part of health research but unfortunately overlooked. Health data primarily focuses on males and blanket conclusions are made based on half of the population. The end goal of my project is to create more literature in the realm of women’s health but specifically producing research in menstrual sharing and the culture around periods. We started out focusing on the sharing function on menstrual tracking apps and asking women if they used that feature or what would inspire them to use that feature and the further we got into the research the more we were learning about the lack of period education in schools and the complicated and intricate culture and social practices when it comes to periods. We are also learning a lot about how people have conversations about periods and what they get from these conversations.
I have learned so much on research practices and the steps taken to conduct research. I have also learned how to see conversations and data through different lenses and really expand my way of thinking about a certain topic. I never considered graduate school before working in the lab. Now, it is a serious option that I consider. I would love to do research in women’s health.
It has been such a cool experience being able to conduct my own research. You are adding something to academia which is a very awesome feeling.
We definitely need more conversations and education around women’s health! I’m always baffled when a doctor (even female doctor) asks if I have heavy periods. As compared to what, I think. Keep up the good work!