Tuning into TUNE-In for Autism

Michelle Yoon, COL ’23, Daejeon, South Korea

This summer I was fortunate enough to receive funding to continue working in the Brodkin Lab, which I joined in the fall of 2020. I am part of the TUNE-In (Training to Understand and Navigate Emotions and Intentions) treatment study as a research assistant. TUNE-In aims to be an intervention program that helps improve social functioning in adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). “Spectrum” in ASD addresses the heterogeneous nature of what autism may appear to be in various individuals, but it is commonly characterized by difficulties in social cognition, social interaction, and restricted and/or repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities. Being involved in autism research has helped me approach and learn more about the autism community, a prominent yet underrepresented demographic all over the world.

Continuing to be involved in the lab beyond the school semester allowed me to continue to explore with constructs and data that I worked with during my independent study in the spring. Working mainly with the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), an instrument that measures autism symptom severity, I struggled to find conclusive quantitative evidence regarding the efficacy of TUNE-In, which I attributed mainly to the small sample size of the study. However, this summer I learned how to interpret and evaluate relatively underpowered clinical study data. I have a better understanding of various statistical constructs that can play to the strengths of smaller sample sizes. I also gained a better understanding of various instruments beyond SRS involved in screening participants and analyzing the effects of treatment, such as Shipley-2 and Scales of Psychological Well-being (SPWB) through working with REDCap, which is a browser-based data collection software commonly used in clinical and translational research. Furthermore, I was able to participate in recruitment efforts for the next phase of the treatment study, and I have a better understanding of advertisements, eligibility requirements, screening efforts, and participant compensation involved in clinical research.

Because the study started during the pandemic, most of my interactions with participants and members of the lab the past two years were virtual, so I was grateful to have the opportunity to interact with different members of the lab in person during the summer. In addition, Career Services’ support allowed me to stay in Philadelphia this summer to pursue my other endeavors along with research, such as volunteering at the Children’s Hospital and taking EMT classes. I am grateful for the opportunity that Career Services has given me to be more independent and intentional this summer, which will help me start my final year at Penn on a strong note.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2022 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services