Jonathan Wang ’21 summer research on housing insecurity

Posted on September 21, 2020

In a typical year, the Office of the Dean of the College (ODOC) sponsors summer research opportunities for undergraduate students both on- and off-campus, complete with weekly workshops, lectures and community-building activities. But this year, as the students and mentors re-imagined their research plans to become projects that could be accomplished from home, two ODOC programs — the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) and the Program in Community-Engaged Scholarship (ProCES) — also re-invented their support structures, creating online check-ins and workshops to replace group lunches, digital bonding activities in place of in-person game nights, and stress management workshops for students juggling an unprecedented combination of challenges.

Many students found that their planned internships couldn’t make the pivot to remote work, so Trisha Thorme, the ProCES director, created a new pathway where students who had lost their summer opportunities could propose new research-based nonprofit internships. Prior to that, Thorme had planned to oversee six local Derian ProCES interns.

ProCES Derian Internships                

In these internships, rising sophomores, juniors and seniors apply academic skills in service of a local nonprofit or governmental organization. Each student tackles specific projects and research under the direction of the organization they’re partnering with — at least one project that can be completed during the internship and another, larger project that both addresses the nonprofit’s needs and launches junior paper or senior thesis work.

Jonathan Wang of the Class of 2021 worked with Prevention Point Philadelphia, a harm reduction center serving people affected by opioid addiction. After working with their program treating opioid use disorder with behavioral therapy and medications, he spent this summer reviewing anonymized patient charts to document how housing insecurity affects treatment outcomes. He found that patients experiencing housing insecurity, particularly street homelessness, were less likely to stay in treatment, take their medications regularly or attend their appointments, compared to their stably housed counterparts. “Housing is health care,” Wang said. “Health care is so much messier than simply fighting diseases; it’s fighting the structures that give rise to them. I hope that I can enter a career as a health care provider to fight for the social changes I want to see.”

You can hear Jonathan discuss his experience here.