Alumni Spotlight: MJ Lee

MJ Lee
MJ Lee, PhD, BSOT, Research Assistant Professor, Division of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Texas Medical Branch

Tell us a little about your experience in the RSD program

One word to describe my experience in the RSD program would be “interdisciplinary.” The UF RSD program offered flexible curriculum; it enabled me to explore external fields such as Research Evaluation and Methodology (REM) and Health Informatics. UF is a large research institution where I was able to identify experts in almost any given field. Not to mention, a substantial number of campus-wide workshops were incredible learning sources of numerous topics (e.g., R, Python, and Machine Learning). During the program, I completed a minor in REM and a two-year fellowship in UF Informatics Institute. These experiences equipped me with methodologies and strategies required to achieve my research goals.

During the program, I was mentored by prominent scholars in the field; I learned to envision the big picture, not just a tree but the entire forest. Primarily, my mentor Dr. Sergio Romero provided passionate encouragement and mentorship. His invaluable lessons supported me in focusing on my research in the most efficient ways and seeing new aspects of projects that I would have never realized without his help. All the lessons and training I gained from the program became the core values of being an independent researcher.

What types of jobs or activities have you engaged in since graduation? And how does the training in the RSD program contribute to those activities?

After graduation from the RSD program, I joined the Department of Occupational Therapy at UF as a postdoctoral fellow funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). The obtained comprehensive training in informatics and measurement science through completing the RSD program served as the groundwork for developing and advancing my research. During my postdoctoral fellowship, I have successfully developed a web/mobile platform for two patient-reported outcome measures, utilizing computerized adaptive testing (CAT) methodologies to enhance their usability. This transitional clinical study bridged a gap in research and clinical practice by providing a convenient mobile platform with graphical aides and employing state-of-the-art informatics technologies and measurement science. My work in assisting Dr. Romero’s research during the RSD program prepared me for establishing required components of successful grant applications. At the end of the fellowship program, I was awarded an American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) Health Services Grant through a study, Predicting Individuals’ Functional Difficulties at Home Using Statistical Machine Learning.

I recently became a Rehabilitation Research Career Development Program K12 scholar at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. I am now thrilled to commence conducting my AOTF study and devote my time to building upon my informatics skills and grantsmanship to become an independent NIH-funded researcher, aiming to enhance patient-centered care and therapeutic guidelines using advanced health informatics technologies and measurement science.