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Behind The Curtain

How I Became A Research Nerd: Lori Kaplan

"How I Became A Research Nerd" is a fun look into the lives of the researchers behind Audience Insight & Research. We will feature a new researcher in the coming weeks. This is the third installment of the series. You should also check out previous posts by Jessica Ruiz and Meredith Heard.

An Inauspicious Beginning to a Research Career

Spring break trip. Jamaica. Sophomore year of college. Tropical paradise: me, three friends, rum birthday cake . . . and my stats book.

My statistics professor scheduled a major exam for the day after spring break, so I spent much of the holiday fretting over the test. For your viewing pleasure, here is a picture of a much younger, sunburned me sitting on the hotel bed, studying. My face clearly says, "if I never see another #$&*(! stats formula, it will be too soon."

Lori studying for statistics exam. Lori Kaplan hide caption

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Lori Kaplan

Lori studying for statistics exam.

Lori Kaplan

As Winston Churchill said, "If you're going through hell, keep going." And so I persevered, thinking... that's over for the rest of my life.

At the time I thought of the class as a degree requirement, so I was not fully (or even partially) open to the idea that analytical tools could be used to unlock answers hidden within complex data. Instead I was drawn to the qualitative. I enjoyed spending hours reviewing microfilm and microfiche (yes this was some time ago) in the bowels of the Harlan Hatcher library. I would get lost until closing time conducting content analyses and reviewing language choices and visual imagery used to characterize candidates and the resultant impact on presidential elections.

The intersection of people and politics drew me in to the world of research, but over time and as I approached graduate school, I recognized the need to add to my toolkit. Once I had my own questions that I wanted to answer, as opposed to questions identified for me in a textbook, I was ready to dive in more deeply to quantitative techniques with more enthusiasm.

Just prior to graduation, I began working for a fantastic mentor at the University of Michigan Health System, Devorah Rich. The focus of her work, and my work with her, was patient and referring physician satisfaction. She was equally skilled in quant and qual work and joined that with great storytelling skills. I have always hoped to model my work on hers.

Lori Kaplan is the Director of Audience Insight and Research.