For Research Slam 2022’s audience vote winner Prabhvir Lakhan, research has been a central focus of his college career since the very beginning. Even before his freshman year at IU, Lakhan was already reaching out to labs on campus and exploring the many undergraduate research opportunities IU provides. His mentor, Dr. Lauren Rutter, an Associate Research Scientist in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, responded enthusiastically to his inquiry, and “I quickly joined her lab on a voluntary basis” before officially joining the lab the following semester. In the past year, he has also joined Dr. Brian D’Onofrio’s Developmental Psychopathy Lab, also in the Department Psychological and Brain Sciences.
Lakhan, a sophomore pursuing a degree in neuroscience, presented his mental health-focused work at IUJUR’s 2022 Research Slam competition. “My research is heavily focused around creating a more dimensional profile when it comes to diagnosing someone with a mental illness. This leads to looking for correlations with someone’s self-report scores for different mental illnesses and other variables like affect and cognition.” This research has critical and practical applications: “with all of this information, it becomes much easier to diagnose someone compared to the current system which has numerous misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses.”
This year’s Research Slam competition, held on April 9th in the Hamilton Lugar School, marked a return to in-person presentations after two years online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program was also streamed on Facebook, where a recording of the event is available. Eight undergraduate presenters, on topics ranging from citizen science roadkill reporting to the history of the passport, discussed their research in 3-5 minute lightning talks in front of a panel of faculty and graduate judges, as well as a general audience. The top prizes consisted of a faculty prize, selected by a faculty and graduate student panel, and an audience prize, selected by the general public. Lakhan was chosen out of all eight presentations as the audience favorite.
This was Lakhan’s second year competing in Research Slam, and he emphasized the joyfulness of the experience: “[last year] was a lot of fun, so there was no hesitation when it came to competing again this year once I saw that it was in person.” He notes that “working in Dr. Rutter’s lab gives me a lot of joy, so I have a lot of fun sharing that research with others.”
As a veteran competitor, Lakhan’s Research Slam victory was especially sweet. “It’s a great honor. It’s really cool to see that my presentation resonated with the audience enough for them to vote for me.”
When asked what advice he would give for future Research Slam competitors, Lakhan noted that “I think it’s really important to not have a script that you follow strictly. It’s important to know what you’re going to talk about on each slide and what the most important points you want to touch on are; however, with a script, it becomes much harder to think outside of the box during the audience questions portion.” He credited this insight with helping him win: “I think that change in mentality made a difference between the two times I participated.”
Lakhan would like to extend gratitude to Dr. Rutter, as “she gave me an amazing opportunity during my freshman year and has always been an extremely supportive mentor.” He remarked that “some of my best memories in college are because of that lab, and I believe I have grown so much as a student and person because of her mentorship.” He would also like to thank Dr. D’Onofrio, who, although he has only joined his lab recently, has already provided great mentorship and research support.