SPOTLIGHT ON MAIA AMELIO

Javier Losada Radley

Introduction

In July of 2020 I joined the Behavioral Genetics of Addiction laboratory as an undergraduate research assistant. While I was interested in addiction, I was new to genetics research, and did not have much experience with what it meant to be part of a laboratory. As a new member, I was fortunate enough to get involved in several aspects of the lab ranging from working on a meta-analysis about nonprescription opioid use and depression, to assisting with the MAPme project, which is involved in ongoing genomics research in college students.

During my first semester working with the lab, I had the pleasure of working alongside Maia Amellio. Maia, who was finishing her last semester at Emory, helped me work through the initial learning curbs of the MAPme project, and demonstrated to me how accessible research could be. The positive experience I had with Maia motivated me to conduct an interview with her in an effort to serve as fuel for undergraduates who are flirting with the idea of getting involved with research at Emory.


Background on Maia Amellio

Maia joined the BGA laboratory as a research assistant and a MAPme ambassador during her sophomore year of college. Throughout that year, she was able to get hands on experience with survey completion, DNA collection, and participant recruitment. The following year plunged into data analysis and was able to finalize and present a project that looked at the relationship between stress and depression in Emory students. Maia also had the opportunity of working with Vincente Cordero, another member of the BGA lab, on education and outreach for the MAPme project.

Now a graduate of Emory College, Maia is in her 3rd year of being at the BGA lab, and is working as a member of the leadership team for the ongoing MAPme project. Beyond her love of Zoe’s kitchen and baking, Maia is passionate about studying substance use in adolescents and young adults and plans to pursue a graduate degree in the fall of 2021. In the meantime, Maia is continuing with her responsibilities for MAPme remotely, from her home in New York.


What drove you to become a research assistant and MAPme ambassador?

“During my freshman year, I became interested in understanding health behaviors from a public health perspective. In searching for opportunities, I was able to get involved with MAPme and quickly began developing an interest in the work. I was particularly excited about the fact beyond genomic research, MAPme also has a public health dimension at its core. As I spent more time working with MAPme my interests began to gravitate towards substance use.”


Are there any aspects from these experiences that stick out to you?

“What I love about working as a research assistant and MAPme ambassador is that we don’t only focus on the data. What I mean by this is that we all are encompassing and take into account the bidirectional relationship between researchers and participants. It is important to me that we not only look at the results of our study, but also recognize the individuals that comprise them. This is a large part of the reason I plan to continue studying adolescent and young adult substance use.”

How have these experiences contributed to your overall college experience?

“Being a part of the BGA lab is like being part of a close-knit family. Coming from the Oxford campus, it was great to arrive on Emory campus already knowing people from the lab. To that effect, some of my best relationships in college have been with both the undergraduates and graduate students in the lab. That being said I want to give Lauren Bertin, Vincente Cordero, and Katie Martin a special shoutout. As graduate students and friends they have been great shoulders to lean on when in need of academic and personal advice. Whether we were exchanging recipes or working on projects we always had such a great time. These experiences made my college experience what it was.”

What would be your advice to undergraduates who aren’t sure if they want to get involved in research?

“Go for it! It’s been my experience that most professors are very much willing to work with undergraduates in doing research. I would encourage students to reach out to professors that they know are involved in interesting areas of research. Even if the professor isn’t necessarily in their major’s department, they should go ahead and ask!

Looking back as a recent Emory Graduate, is there anything you want to tell incoming Emory’s students?

“If you are new to Emory, also take advantage of the various departments and advisors that are provided, they will always guide you in the right direction. You can even go as far as asking your TA’s and other graduate students about their recommendations.

“Another thing that I urge students to do is to also get involved in experiences beyond research. One of the most profound experiences for me came from volunteering at a substance use treatment center. I was able to get exposure to a range of experiences and truly see how research can be used to help people. For me once I developed an interest in substance use, I really dove in and did my best to get involved with it at many different levels. That being said if you find something that might be interesting, tackle it from all sides!”