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Undergraduate Research Spotlight: Daniel Dilion

Daniel Dilion, WVU Anthropology Undergraduate researcherDaniel Dillon, an Anthropology major (BA '21) recently presented his research, “Cultural Knowledge and Perception of Cancer and Cancer Healthcare among a College-going/College-educated Population in North Central West Virginia,” at the Virtual Meeting of the 80th Annual Society for Applied Anthropology Conference.

What does your research explore?

Our research looks into cancer health literacy among college-going/college-educated populations in West Virginia and the Appalachian region. We utilize pile sorting as a method to look into cultural knowledge and perceptions of cancer/cancer healthcare. The pile sorting allows us to examine associations that are drawn between certain terminology, which is then applied to building our cultural domain.

How did you get involved in undergraduate research?

My advisor, Dr. Donaldson, mentioned the project to me and gave me the opportunity to get involved in the research! She is also my research faculty mentor.

What was the most challenging part of the research process and why?

The most challenging part of the research process was analyzing data and making conclusions based off of the pile sorting. This took a lot of time and thinking because we had to sort through everything and see where we could notice trends or find explanations for what we were seeing. Although it was the most challenging, I learned that I really enjoy the research process and how rewarding it was to start seeing conclusions from the work we did!

What was most exciting about your research?

I was definitely the most excited about actually getting out into the field to learn about the topic firsthand. It was so exciting to conduct interviews and pile sorting because I loved hearing people’s thoughts and explanations from their own knowledge! It was a super rewarding experience.

Was there anything that caught you by surprise while researching?

When we started into analysis and drawing conclusions, I was really surprised by some of the associations that were being made. Some words were grouped together in ways that were unexpected, so it required some more thinking to work toward conclusions on why those groups were made. It was super interesting to start seeing the clusters of data get formed, especially when the groupings weren’t what we expected!

For undergraduate students who are interested in undergraduate research, what advice would you give them?

I would say never be afraid to talk to your professors about research! You’d be surprised what opportunities you can find. Also, when you’re involved in research, don’t be afraid to ask lots and lots of questions – it can only benefit you and teach you more. As a perfectionist myself, I used to be afraid to seem like I “didn’t get it,” but in reality, asking the questions you might think are irrelevant are the ones that will give you the most clarity.

Have you taught about any future research projects?

I have! I’m hoping to conduct independent research for an archaeology conference and I’ve thought about specific aspects of our current research that I could expand on independently, too.