I was introduced to survey methodology during my summer internship with the Joint Program in Survey Methodology (JPSM). The JPSM program stood out over other internship opportunities because it was the first program I saw that combined both of my undergraduate majors: social sciences and statistics. During the internship, I worked at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), where I was able to use my cognitive psychology background to learn more about the processes used by respondents to answer survey questions and I was able to use my statistics knowledge to analyze survey research in health and social sciences. I also took weekly seminars on survey research from Bob Groves at the University of Maryland, where I learned more about the survey methodology field.
My internship experience led me to a position at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research after graduation, where I worked for 8 months before starting in the first cohort of the new Michigan Program in Survey Methodology in 2002. This unique position put added pressure on me, because I was the first program graduate to enter the job market.
Fortunately my class work gave me both theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience in the most current survey methods. In addition, I gained valuable research experience as a graduate student research assistant and as a summer intern at ZUMA. Finally, the mentoring I received during my studies from some of the survey research field's greatest minds gave me the background and expertise I needed to succeed in the job market. I accepted a position with RTI International well before graduation in May of 2004.
At RTI I am a methodological consultant on a variety of studies from America's Best Hospitals to the National Prisoner Survey of Sexual Assault. My tasks include designing and assessing questionnaires, conducting cognitive interviews and focus groups, designing and conducting methodological experiments, writing reports and publications, analyzing data, conducting factor analysis, and using latent class modeling.
I believe one of the greatest assets I have in my job compared to other people I know is that I am actually working in the field in which I earned my degree. My career incorporates what I learned in school and during my research experience, and it allows me to continue learning about survey and research methods.