The Charger Blog

Rising Sophomore Looks Forward to Presenting Research at First Conference

A student research assistant with the University’s WeEmbody Lab, Bryan Cadavos ’23 and his faculty mentors explored weight control behaviors among journalists, and he will now be presenting their findings at his first conference this fall. They hope their findings will foster more inclusion in the journalism field.

July 31, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing & Communications

Alvin Tran Zoom meeting
Dr. Tran presenting at the Asian American Journalist Association New England Chapter meeting in June.

When Bryan Cadavos ’23 received an email with "CPHA Abstract Decision" in the subject line, he was nervous. It reminded him of when he was a high school student opening decision letters from his top colleges. He was thrilled when he opened the email and read, “Congratulations! Your abstract has been accepted for the 2020 Connecticut Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting and Conference." He had just been accepted to present at his first conference.

A genetics and biotechnology major, Cadavos says that although researchers have studied unhealthy weight control behaviors among fashion models, none had, to his knowledge, explored pressures to achieve specific appearance standards among journalists.

“From working on this project, I have learned a lot about becoming a researcher,” said Cadavos, who is minoring in Chinese. “I learned to pay attention to detail and to be as precise as possible when it comes to breaking down the research.”

"We hope our findings will lead to action in the industry, including ongoing efforts to foster a more inclusive journalism culture"Prof. Alvin Tran, Sc.D., MPH

Cadavos will be presenting at the Connecticut Public Health Association's Annual Conference, which will be held virtually, this fall. He has been conducting this research with Alvin Tran, Sc.D., MPH, and Michele Smallidge, Ed.D., RD, as part of his work with the University’s WeEmbody Lab as a student research assistant, a position he has held since the start of the spring semester.

“Bryan has been working diligently throughout the course of the pandemic in helping the WeEmbody Lab team to write our research paper,” said Dr. Tran. “I am incredibly proud of his achievement, and I look forward to his first academic presentation at the Connecticut Public Health Association virtual conference this fall.”

'We hope our findings will lead to action'
Bryan Cadavos ’23, a genetics and biotechnology major.
Bryan Cadavos ’23, a genetics and biotechnology major.

The team found that unhealthy weight control behaviors, including dieting, extreme fasting, and binge eating, were common among journalists in the United States. Dr. Tran, a former health reporter for Kaiser Health News in Washington, D.C., says television journalists were more likely to engage in these behaviors than journalists who do not work on camera. He says these are considered clinically relevant symptoms of eating disorders.

“Our next step in this project is to work with journalist organizations across the country to discuss these findings and to conduct an even more comprehensive study,” said Dr. Tran, whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, NPR, and on the PBS NewsHour. “We hope our findings will lead to action in the industry, including ongoing efforts to foster a more inclusive journalism culture for people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as body shapes and sizes.”

As part of the WeEmbody Lab’s work, students from all majors receive rigorous training in research related to public health. They immerse themselves in all aspects of the research process, from data collection to analysis, and presenting findings.

Cadavos says his experience working with WeEmbody Lab has enabled him to gain the knowledge and experience to grow professionally.

“I have been able to expand my knowledge of research skills and techniques,” he said. “The opportunity to take part in the research studying unhealthy weight control behaviors among journalists is the start of my journey toward achieving my goal of becoming a researcher.”