Exercise and academic research help student get to graduation day

Psychology major learns from personal experience what it takes to finish strong

Jennie Ho

When Jennie Ho entered UH to study psychology, she expected to learn how to become a clinician.

She didn’t expect to personally experience some of the conditions she was studying.

“During my junior year, I experienced depression, anxiety and many emotional problems because of a traumatic family event. I did not go through a day without crying,” she recalls.

She found comfort during that time by getting involved with Soka Gakkai International, an organization of people connected by Buddhism, and Cougar Kendo, an on-campus organization that practices modern Japanese martial art. The practice is a form of swordsmanship that uses bamboo swords and protective armor.

“I practiced twice a week and this helped to promote both my mental and physical well-being,” she says.

She also delved into research.

Since 2013 she has been a research assistant with Dr. Qian Lu, Director of Research on Emotion, Adjustment, Culture and Health. After a promotion, Ho is now a senior research assistant in the lab and supervises the junior research assistants on project related tasks and facilitates their training sessions.

“I also work as an interviewer for breast cancer survivor participants in the lab, which allows me to work with adults of varying ages and cultural backgrounds who are presenting a diverse range of complaints and conditions,” says Ho. “I have learned to communicate effectively with participants and adapt my style and techniques according to individual needs and personalities.”

“What makes Jennie stand out is her passion toward excellence, her detail-oriented working style, and her committing attitude,” says Dr. Lu. “Jennie worked with me and graduate students on a study that is externally funded by the American Cancer Society.  The study uses expressive writing as a method of intervention to improve physical and mental health among Chinese-speaking breast cancer survivors. Jennie is bilingual and bicultural so she is uniquely positioned to contribute to this study.”

Last summer, she participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program which gave her the opportunity to do her own independent research.

“My research aimed to examine the relationship between ambivalence over emotional expression, perceived social support, and mental well-being among Chinese breast cancer survivors,” she says.

Ho was born in Taiwan and lived there until the age of 13 when her family moved to Houston. Growing up in Taiwan, Ho says that she found herself closely relating to the concept of ambivalence over emotional expression.

“I got the chance to more deeply understand how culture may shape individuals’ emotional expressions, tendency to seek social support, and in turn affect their well-being,” she says.

Earlier this year, Ho attended the 2016 Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual convention in San Diego.

“At the conference, I got the chance to attend different presentations and learn about recent breakthroughs in research. By meeting and talking to the people who are experts in this field, I also gained new ideas for my own research,” Ho says.

During her time at the conference Ho also says she learned that she still has a lot more to learn.

Now that she is graduating, she plans to gain some real-world experience before continuing her education and going to grad school to pursue a PhD.

“I think I am lacking practical experience. So, after graduation I want to find a job that will allow me to have direct patient/client interaction. A few years of working experience is necessary for me to really understand what kind of environment I will be in and what kinds of skills I really need if I plan to work in this field in the future,” she says.

- By Monica Byars