Laleh Boroujerdi-Rad

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?

I have always recognized there is a need to increase disability awareness, to increase the general knowledge about disabilities, and find a way to provide a focused learning atmosphere between students with disabilities and faculty. Such a learning atmosphere allows for strong communication and greater understanding between students and their mentors. To this end, I conceived of, wrote, and developed a Disability Fact Sheet Handbook for faculty, students and staff to use. The Handbook provides students and faculty readily available and uniform educational information about specific disabilities. The fact sheets in the Handbook offer information on many of the disabilities experienced by students currently on campus. They include physical, learning, and psychological disabilities. I selected Dr. Caesar Sereseres as my faculty mentor because he possesses broad knowledge on a wide variety of subjects, including disability-related issues on campus.

2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

I began my research in the Summer of 2002 when I was first appointed to the Disability Services Center (DSC) Student Advisory Board. As a DSC Peer Educator, Peer Mentor, and Student Advisor, I oversee the Peer Educator program and have learned through a series of research experiences that students with disabilities often underestimate the importance of discussing their disabilities with faculty. As a result, student academic performance often suffers greatly. I also discovered that faculty members want to help these students by providing appropriate accommodations, but do not always know the best way to do so. Because the goal of the DSC Peer Educator is to assist the Center in helping students with disabilities succeed on campus, I believe the Handbook to be an excellent solution to raise the level of communication and understanding and student academic success.

3. How has research enhanced your education?

It has affirmed that I am on the right path! On the right path in terms of my current research, academic study plan, and eventual career path.

4. What has been your favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?

I have had three gratifying experiences. The first was being able to give back to both the immediate community and the community at large. The second was being invited to present my research at various conferences, roundtable discussions, meetings, and conventions throughout California and in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. Those venues include the UCI Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, the Southern California Conference on Undergraduate Research, UC’s Regents meeting, the American Bar Association, and just last week the American College Personnel Association Convention. Finally, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to expand my research project by revising the Handbook to meet the needs of other UC campuses, thanks to a generous public service scholarship from the Donald A. Strauss Foundation, and grants from Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP).

5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

After completing my graduate studies (Ph.D. and J.D.), I intend to work as a civil rights attorney. I want to specialize in disability rights for either the Disability Rights Section (DRS) of the Civil Rights Division within the U.S. Department of Justice or the National Council on Disability (for whom I interned last year). By serving as an advocate for people with disabilities, I want to improve public health care and help provide a more responsive and equitable health care system to those with disabilities, particularly victims of chronic pain. The latter is an area where there is a substantial need for both better representation and legal change. Doing research on disabilities and having the opportunity to develop the Handbook has helped me hone my logical and analytical skills. I have leaned through the statistical and personal research that was needed to write and publish the Handbook how to approach a problem or situation from many angles, and develop a solution by using careful and appropriate analysis of all the data.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?
  • Utilize the invaluable resources available at UCI, such as UROP. UROP offers counseling, assistance in developing a research plan, diverse workshops, funding, and the valuable opportunity to present and publish your research.

  • Choose an area of research that you are PASSIONATE about.
     
  • Make a specific research plan! Hang it in your kitchen, your bedroom, over your television and computer, and read it aloud every day. Then STICK WITH IT! Even when you modify your plan, it’s the overall concept that needs to remain steady and be your basic blueprint.

  • Be consistent, work hard, but enjoy the process. Make it a quest, not a chore. Be serious about your research goal, but pause long enough to examine where you are going and why.

  • Network, network, and then network some more. I talked to senators, congressmen/congresswomen, lawyers, educators, fellow researchers, disability advocates, and most important of all those with disabilities about my research. Networking not only added value to my research, but also opened many doors to greater and broader opportunities that I have and will continue to use to expand my research.

Past Researchers of the Month
2004
Dec. '04 Martin Vega
Nov. '04 Peter Kuo
Oct. '04 Michelle Plyer
Sep. '04 Camille Campion
Aug. '04 Ahmed Ibrahim
Jul. '04 Gregoria Barazandeh
Jun. '04 Matthew Korn
May '04 Jolene Minakary
Apr. '04 Zhanna Kovaleva
Mar. '04 Dorothy Chang
Feb. '04 Elizabeth Yanni
Jan. '04 Brad Cohn
  
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