Doctoral student Jillian Kwong, who has spent the summer interning in Washington, D.C. with the COMPASS fellowship program.
Doctoral student Jillian Kwong, who has spent the summer interning in Washington, D.C. with the COMPASS fellowship program.

Dispatch from D.C.: Jillian Kwong

This summer, four Annenberg doctoral students are in Washington, D.C., participating in the COMPASS Summer Fellowship Program, which is designed to provide Ph.D. students in Communications and Media Studies with hands-on experience in the development and implementation of communication policy. COMPASS fellows intern for two months in D.C. at government offices or agencies, think tanks, political party or advocacy organizations, or other communication-related public or private sector institutions. Professor Mark Lloyd coordinates the program for Annenberg.

This week we check in with second year student Jillian Kwong, who has spent the summer at the National Institute of Health's Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research.

What's your academic concentration? Your areas of interest?

I study health communication, specifically the use of technology in healthcare. Broadly speaking, I look at how technologies such as wearables, mobile apps, video games, etc. impact the way people communicate, behave, and manage relationships in order to improve health outcomes.

Where are you interning this summer?

I am at the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research (OBSSR) in Bethesda, Maryland. The purpose of OBSSR is to promote research related to behavioral and social science (BSS) in health.

What are your responsibilities there?

I have been working on a few projects during my time at OBSSR. The first project involved reviewing outcomes from a ten-year effort by the NIH to support sixteen medical schools as they revised their educational curriculum to integrate more BSS into training. The second project, I worked with a team to analyze the longitudinal impact of a funding opportunity announcement related to health disparities research in behavioral and social science. In the third project I helped OBSSR identify and bring together exemplary scholars in mHealth and BSS.

What does a normal day at your internship look like?

Honestly, it really depends on the day. Some days are spent researching and reading articles, other days are mainly pulling and cleaning data, while others are completely dedicated to writing and editing. That said I have been really lucky to have amazing supervisors at NIH who made sure to involve me in various aspects of the organization. They have gone out of their way to set up meetings with individuals all over NIH in order to give me various perspectives on what I can do if I choose to pursue a career in government after graduation.

Have you had a change to see and do other things in D.C.?

I have done a bit of sightseeing but for the most part my time here has been pretty low-key. I did 4th of July at the National Mall and explored some of D.C. I spent a lot of time with extended family, toured the Naval Academy in Annapolis, went outrigging and paddle boarding on Kent Island, saw an Orioles game in Baltimore, cheered on the Dodgers as they played the Nationals, searched high and low for the best ice cream in the D.C. area, and tried not to get struck by lightning during the many spontaneous thunderstorms.

How do you think your experience in the COMPASS program this summer will impact the work you're doing in the doctoral program?

This experience has really opened my eyes to all the different options available after graduation. It has been really helpful for me to get a broader idea of what the field has to offer and the various opportunities that can enrich my educational experience.

I think the most valuable thing I learned from my time at NIH is that there is no one way to write a grant application. I got to see how funding opportunity announcements at NIH are developed, promoted, selected, and administered. Before this, I always thought it was a mystery that could only be solved through trial and error. Now I have a lot more understanding about what it takes to put together a good NIH grant application.

Any advice for other students who might be interested in participating in COMPASS in the future?

Do it!