Spit for Science also offers opportunities for students to get involved in the running of the research study. Many students have “taken ownership” of this research study, and are involved in the administration of the project. Students have helped us raise awareness of the study and encouraged student participation. Students also have the opportunity to work with more senior graduate students, postdocs, and faculty who oversee the project, on data analysis and writing up results, both in the form of newsletters sent out to the student body and scientific presentation of the work. Thus, this project offers select students a chance to be intimately involved in all aspects of scientific research, providing a training opportunity and mentoring experience, especially valuable for those who wish to go on to graduate school.
By studying VCU students on these important behavioral dimensions, Spit for Science has information specific to VCU students. This project represents an interdisciplinary, cross-campus initiative that has brought together faculty and administrators from many different areas around the university. The Director of the VCU Wellness Resource center is involved in the project, and it is our goal to use the information that students provide to feed back and develop better intervention and prevention programming specific to the needs of VCU students.
Finally, an important part of Spit for Science: The VCU Student Survey is the educational component. In addition to the more informal learning experiences delineated above, researchers from the Spit for Science research team hold talks and smaller discussion forums to talk to students about the importance of research, improving awareness and understanding of substance use and mental health outcomes and the factors that contribute to them, and, importantly, the role of genetics in health-related outcomes and how genetics is likely to influence the future of medicine (detailed further below).