Skip to main content

Health Studies Student Named McNair Fellow

Daniela Valdez headshot
Daniela Valdez

In her junior year, Daniela Valdez attended and presented at a McNair Scholars Program sponsored research conference at the University of Maryland.

“The experience was a turning point in my undergraduate years and helped me discover what I’m passionate about and want to embark on in my future endeavors,” Valadez said.

We reached out to Valdez, a Health Studies major, to ask her about her experience as a McNair fellow and her mentorship with Dr.Vinita Sharma

How does the McNair Fellowship impact your research?

Prior to participating in this program, I had not considered doing undergraduate research and determined my goal was to pursue a career path in the area of health care. This fellowship has provided me with knowledge and experiences I would have never imagined. Learning to prepare and conduct research, formulating questions and learning to seek answers and identify solutions and to present what I’ve learned has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


What does your research focus on?

My current research, “Decoding the Digital Nexus: Investigating the Relationship Between Adolescent Technology Use and Suicidal Ideation/Attempts,” is a tricky topic. It is a systematic literature review, meaning that there is no current data being collected within this topic. This involves a deep dive into the effect excessive technology use has on the younger generations and the mental illnesses it can create.


What originally interested you in this research?

Being out in the community, looking around and seeing how many young adolescents are using technology truly initiated this question. I wanted to dig deeper as to what the daily use of technology was doing to young children, as the use of technology is projected to continue increasing. I have passion about this topic because I want this rate to decrease and to reduce the probability of affected adolescents.


Woman standing near a table presenting research
Daniela Valdez presenting her research at the University of Maryland

What about your studies and mentorship from Dr. Sharma has helped you with your research efforts?

Dr. Sharma is an intelligent individual who has guided me through my research and provided information and knowledge that has enhanced my undergraduate experience. She has been there for me alongside each step during this process and not only helped with my research but also as a student.

The night before presenting in Maryland, I was able to have a phone call with her and chat because I was super nervous. She comforted me and ensured that I deserved to be where I was and that my hard work was going to pay off. Dr. Sharma has  helped me discover what I am passionate about and what I want to pursue for my masters program.


What advice do you have for students interested in getting involved in undergraduate research?

I would recommend for students to take the jump, try out research and be open to the outcomes and possibilities it may entail. Everything may not go as planned, but do not get discouraged if changes happen. There is so much to learn with research, and those who are conducting are also just as curious as you may be. By talking to others and discovering what they are passionate about, may lead to discovering what you are passionate about.

Lastly, make a deep and meaningful connection with your faculty mentor and consider who you are choosing. Your faculty mentor is someone that you will work alongside with for these two years, but someone who you can still connect with even after you graduate. They are someone who is going to guide you and help during your time in your undergraduate years.