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Unexpected opportunities in undergrad nursing research

“I’ve known for a long time that I’ve wanted to be a midwife,” Margaret Quatraro said.

Margaret Quatraro stands in regalia with her husband in front of the School of Nursing banner.
Margaret Quatraro stands with her husband at the School of Nursing Convocation ceremony in Dec. 2022.

Quatraro graduated this past December with her bachelor’s in nursing. She now works at St. Luke’s labor and delivery department with goals to further her education through midwifery school.

So when she started at the School of Nursing in August 2020, she didn’t think she’d be getting into research projects or publishing scholarly articles. But at the encouragement of associate professor Cara Gallegos, Quatraro applied to work as an undergraduate research assistant.

She is so glad she did.

Playing a major role as a student

“The research that I’ve done here has been really cool, especially the weight bias research,” Quatraro said.

The weight-bias simulation and study was just one branch of the Patient Voice Project in which Quatraro helped recruit and interview the patient participants.

“Biases are a huge problem that hold us back,” she said. “It was fun to find a voice who was willing to share her experiences and use that to create this study.”

She was also part of the team to analyze the effectiveness of the weight-bias simulation and publish their findings.

Typically, undergraduate research assistants at the School of Nursing pair with faculty and assist their research endeavors. But Quatraro’s research autonomy increased with each project she worked on.

Margaret Quatraro stands with John Dye in front of a projected slide presentation of their research project.
Quatraro and John Henry Dye, another undergraduate research assistant, both worked on the weight-bias research project.

During her final semester of the nursing program, Quatraro worked more independently on mindfulness research. Gallegos mentored her from an arm’s length, encouraging her: “You write the paper, you make the Qualtrics, you analyze the data,” Quatraro said. “That’s been really fun to do.”

For Quatraro, one of the “coolest things” about doing research at Boise State was the opportunity to work side-by-side with doctorally-prepared nursing faculty and meet other scholars at conferences.

“Especially going to WIN and realizing, ‘Wow, there’s literally no other undergraduate nursing students here who are [presenting],’” she said. “That’s freaking huge. You don’t find that anywhere else.”

Discovering the door to limitless possibilities

“Research has shown me what you can learn is limitless, and who you can connect with is also limitless,” Quatraro said.

She didn’t start nursing school with dreams of conducting studies or publishing articles, but her experiences sparked new interests that may impact her career down the road.

“I love providing care,” she said. “My path in research has only made my future path more confusing.” Quatraro smiled as she said it, explaining how she was “so sure” of what she wanted when she started nursing school.

Now as she considers midwifery school, research and doctoral-level studies, she’s a little less sure.

“I really enjoy research,” she said. “I just have big human-centered dreams and sometimes…research feels so distant from that.”

“Right now, I think I just want to get really good at being a nurse.”

Learn more about School of Nursing research assistantships