COVID-19 + Pandemic Quarantine =?

Published: November 05, 2020

Benjamin Menchell’s introduction to research began as COVID-19 began to rear its ugly head.

It was March 2020 and Menchell was beginning a survey class project under the guidance of his Social Psychology instructor, Dr. Rommel Robertson, Assistant Professor of Psychology in the department of Social Sciences (who also would later become his co-mentor).

Menchell, a 19-year-old lower sophomore, led his student research group to the successful completion of their survey research project investigating the relationship between sleep quality and test anxiety. The results of the study did not show any significant relationship between sleep quality and test anxiety, as initially predicted. However, as Menchell later reflected on the experience he noted, “I learned the basics of survey research which evoked in me a passion that led me to register for a Research Methods in psychology course this fall semester.

As part of the semester long survey project, Menchell’s team learned the processes of formulating research questions, developing testable hypotheses, conducting literature reviews, selecting validated scales, creating questionnaires, collecting the data, and presenting the findings.

“We believe the findings were impacted by our small sample size.

Menchell could have shrugged his shoulders and moved on to other interests, but he was hooked.

“I knew I wanted to be a researcher. Even though these results didn’t lead anywhere I liked the process. It’s dynamic—results lead to questions that lead to additional ideas that lead to other research projects—you never know what direction it will take you.”

Menchell was a researcher before he knew it.

Therefore, when presented with the opportunity in the Fall 2020 semester to continue his research interests, under the guidance of Dr. Kersha Smith (his current Research Methods professor) and Dr. Rommel Robertson, Menchell jumped at the opportunity.  

In Dr. Smith’s Research Methods class Menchell is gaining in depth knowledge about the psychological research process, research ethics, other research design and data collection techniques uses in research, summarizing and interpreting data as well as learning how write research reports.

Menchell and his co-mentors successfully submitted an application for his acceptance into the CUNY Research Scholars Program (CRSP) with a new project in mind.

The title is “Coronavirus Pandemic and Quarantine Measures Impact on Psychological Well-being and Sleep Quality in College Students”.

With Researchers working tirelessly to better understand the extent of the pandemic's impact, the project was designed to investigate “the impact of lock-down/quarantine measures on the psychological well-being and sleep quality of college students.”

“We are interested in assessing whether students' rigid or strict compliance with the lock-down/quarantine measures negatively impacted psychological well-being and resulted in poor sleep quality during the lock-down/quarantine periods.”

The idea for the project came from Menchell. During the spring when the virus forced many people to hunker down in their apartments or houses, there were many people who had to work. Menchell was one of them.

“I had odd jobs working for DoorDash and  The virus was scary but I noticed that being outside and engaging with other people was making me feel better psychologically. I started to ponder whether I was better off than people who were indoors hunkered down, not engaging with people, and not getting exercise? I wondered how this question could be investigated, either way,” said Menchell, a native of Little Neck, New York.

At Great Neck South High School, he took AP (Advanced Placement) courses in psychology although he acknowledges that transferring to college life after graduation required ‘learning how to be more regimented’.

“I came to Queensborough because it is an affordable school and also because I knew the professors would be amazing and that I would get a phenomenal education.”

“Ben is intelligent, driven, determined, and motivated,” said Robertson. “The quality of his work signaled to me that he is an above average student. Very early in the semester he demonstrated the ability to take initiative. He volunteered to be the leader of his group and his group members chose to keep him in the leadership role because of his natural leadership and problem-solving skills.”

“There is also a question of what determines an essential worker. Helping elderly people have access to food without putting themselves at risk is a very important contribution to society at this time and that adds to my positive feelings of self- worth.”

Menchell’s thoughts on the dynamic quality of research led to his next idea to study how finances and equity force some people to work while others don’t have to and how is that affecting their psychological well-being.  

“This is a trickledown effect as it relates to reducing homelessness. Ultimately the idea is to learn about a viable ways to distribute opportunities and helpful resources among the homeless community in New York and the US, to help them get back on their feet as well as become more financially stable.

“I am excited by the opportunities that involvement in research can provide for me in my development as a student researcher and in preparing me for the next steps after I transfer out of Queensborough community college and into a four-year academic program. I joined Psi Beta, the psychology honors society, because Professor Robertson said that there are further research opportunities that go along with the esteemed award, and the idea of working alongside studious students is a dream of mine that I have had since my earliest research experiences in my earth science course.”





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