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6 Questions for First-Year Research Assistants: Paul Kopp

Paul began working at OrACORe in June 2021 after graduating from Princeton University with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. In 2018, Paul interned with the Saint Joseph’s Neighborhood Center in his hometown of Rochester, NY, which aims to increase healthcare access and fight socioeconomic injustice. During a study abroad experience in 2019, Paul volunteered at the Townsville University Hospital in Queensland, Australia. In 2020, Paul worked in the Metcalf Lab at Princeton, where he assisted on a project modeling the interaction between Covid-19 and climate, and researched U.S. federal COVID testing policy for his senior thesis. In his free time, Paul captained the Princeton men’s club lacrosse and volleyball teams.

1. What about this research position attracted you to it?

Paul at Milford Sound in Fiordland, New Zealand during a semester abroad in 2019.

I especially liked the idea of being immersed in both policy and clinical research. While my prior research involved epidemiological models of coronavirus, I found sitting at the computer all day monotonous. However, I still love being a part of the process of turning data into action and the position at OrACORe seemed as though it would satisfy my data curiosity, but it also promised to provide exposure to interactions with study participants. In the end, I was particularly excited by the opportunity to work on multiple projects at once, where I could be in the clinic with participants one day, and doing policy work the next.

2. What’s a typical week on the job for you?

There is always a wide range of things to do, so every week looks a little bit different. I usually get into the clinic one day a week and recruit subjects for the TeMPO study. On other days, I recruit potential participants over the phone. Throughout the week, I am involved with a variety of other TeMPO tasks, from searching clinic schedules for eligible patients to scheduling enrollment visits and tracking data on our progress. I also work with our OAPol model, performing tasks such as updating data and searching for bugs in new model versions. Currently, my weeks include reviewing literature for a presentation and an upcoming grant proposal submission. We have several meetings and check-ins throughout the week, which is great for facilitating group work and helps me stay on top of all my projects.

3. What do you like most about being a research assistant at OrACORe?

I really enjoy the work environment at OrACORe. Being involved in multiple projects means that my work week is continually engaging, and so far, it has not been overwhelming because of the collaborative atmosphere. The office is full of smart and fun people who are always happy to lend a hand when needed, and a bonus has been getting to know my colleagues on a personal level. It’s great to have a whole team I can go to for asking questions or just to chat with over lunch and after work!

4. What’s one thing you’ve learned in the past month here that either changed the way you understand health care or influenced you in some other way?

Recently, I started reviewing literature for an upcoming grant proposal on frailty in populations living with HIV. Thanks to improved courses of treatment, people with HIV can live longer lives, but they experience higher rates of osteoporosis and fractures. Studies are now underway to examine new treatments such as drugs or diet and exercise programs for these health risks. This exposure was a personal reminder of the importance of providing extra efforts to properly diagnose, treat, and research underserved populations. It demonstrated how a lack of medical care and research, originating in societal stigma, can be structurally disadvantageous. It also demonstrated the boundless nature of medical research, where improvements in care lead to novel findings that require further research to address.

Paul (jersey #9) with his club lacrosse teammates in 2019.

5. What are your plans post-OrACORe?

After OrACORe, I plan to attend medical school, matriculating in 2023. I’m still figuring out what I want to do beyond that but through my experiences with OrACORe, I am certain that I will remain actively engaged with research in some form.

6. How are you engaging with your community outside of work?

I’m part of the anti-racism community engagement subcommittee at OrACORe, and we’ve been exploring many ways to volunteer outside of work. Last month, I donated blood because of the nation-wide blood shortages. More recently, I completed the orientation for Boston Cares, an organization that connects volunteers with engagement opportunities, and I was able to help at a food pantry with my colleague Maame. I also have been involved with the Youth Enrichment Services program (YES), where I led bike rides for youth in the community and provided riding lessons to those who are new to it. Ahead of the upcoming holiday season, the community engagement subcommittee is also running a clothing drive to benefit those in need at Haley House, a local soup kitchen.

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