CSBS Career Exploration Fellow Spotlight 

Yukun Yu
Career Exploration Fellow, Yukun Yu

Yukun Yu is a Career Exploration Fellow at CSBS. The Graduate College’s Career Exploration Fellowship Program offers doctoral students the chance to gain mentored work experiences in administrative units within the university. We asked Yukun to share more about her role and experiences at CSBS. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What motivated you to choose CSBS as your career exploration host site? 

I am a doctoral student from the Department of Psychology, studying early child development and language acquisition. As I’ve worked with families in the Champaign-Urbana community, I’ve become increasingly interested in science outreach and making research more accessible to the public. Through coordinating research in the lab and collaborating with others, I’ve honed communication and organizational skills that I’m excited to apply outside of academia. 

When I discovered the Career Exploration Fellowship opportunity provided by the Graduate College, I was immediately drawn to CSBS’s mission of promoting interdisciplinary social and behavioral science research on campus and its impact on society. I thought joining CSBS would provide me with opportunities to connect with research development professionals and other researchers on campus, as well as explore my interest in public engagement. 

Could you share a project you’ve worked on at CSBS that you’re particularly proud of? 

At the start of the semester, I had the opportunity to get involved in the Community-Academic Scholars Initiative offered by IHSI and CSBS. This 10-week summer program for undergraduate students focuses on community-based research, and I was thrilled to join the program team and participate in the application review and interview process. As someone who has worked closely with undergraduate students in my lab, I was excited to see so many passionate applicants looking to address societal challenges through research. 

Currently, I’m part of a team working on an NSF REU proposal for a summer research program focused on diversity and equity science for undergraduate students at under-resourced institutions. I’m looking forward to continuing to work on this project over the summer and seeing the potential impact it can have for both researchers and students. 

What’s one of the most interesting or surprising things you’ve learned during your time at CSBS? 

Through my experiences at CSBS this semester, I’ve come to appreciate how complex and collaborative the research process can be. As a doctoral student, I primarily work with my advisor and have limited experience with grants, so learning about how to put together a proposal has been eye-opening for me. This also made me realize the crucial role CSBS plays in supporting researchers by helping them identify funding opportunities and prepare proposals.  

Attending CSBS workshops and events has also exposed me to a wide range of social and behavioral science research topics. I’ve come to appreciate the power of collaborative research in addressing societal questions and how social and behavioral science can play a unique role in studying people’s lives and experiences. By promoting collaboration between units and institutions, CSBS is helping to build a vibrant research community and improve the impact of the research work on our campus. 

How has your time at CSBS influenced your career goals? 

My time at CSBS has inspired me to consider research development as a potential career path. I enjoy learning about research and appreciate the opportunity to work on diverse projects with researchers from various disciplines. Research development careers also offer the chance to coordinate research teams, organize events, and make positive changes in the research environment on campus. I’ve also come to value the supportive and collaborative work environment, which has made me realize that it’s the ideal workplace for me. I’m excited about the possibilities that research development careers can offer and the positive impact they can have on the research community. 

What advice would you give to future Career Exploration Fellows who are interested in pursuing a similar path? 

I found two things to be incredibly helpful during my time at CSBS: talking to people and reflecting on my experiences regularly. By meeting with research development professionals both within and outside of CSBS, I’ve gained valuable insights into different aspects of research development careers. Additionally, taking time to reflect on my experiences has allowed me to better understand my interests and values, and how they align with research development careers.