Jesse Cahill

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Jesse Cahill

Jesse Cahill

Center on Disability and Development
Texas A&M University, TX

After completing a bachelor’s degree in music in Wisconsin, Jesse Cahill worked as a private music instructor. Jesse taught guitar, bass, and drums to students of all backgrounds and experience levels and learned he had a love of teaching. To reach more students and continue learning, Jesse enrolled at UW-Green Bay (UWGB) with a career in science and science education in mind. Jesse graduated magna cum laude from UWGB with a Bachelor’s of Science, majoring in human biology and chemistry. While attending classes at Green Bay, Jesse balanced night guitar lessons with a full time course load. Jesse worked as a TA for UWGB’s Targeted Opportunities for Success in Science (TOSS) program, which is designed to bridge the performance gap between multicultural students and students from non-multicultural backgrounds. Additionally, Jesse tutored at UWGB and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) for 2 years and taught a summer microbiology lab at UWGB. After teaching the lab course, Jesse was inspired to pursue graduate school so that he would be able to teach science at the post-secondary level. Jesse entered the Biochemistry and Biophysics graduate program at Texas A&M in 2013. He joined Dr. Ryland Young’s lab to study how viruses of bacteria (bacteriophages) lyse (destroy) bacterial cells. Jesse became a Ph.D. candidate in 2014 and completed his teaching and coursework requirement in spring 2015. In addition to teaching at Texas A&M, Jesse has mentored four undergraduate researchers. As Jesse completes his Ph.D. project, he has sought additional professional development activities: member of the CIRTL-TAR fellows program, a program designed for graduate students who wish to develop a project that will improve teaching outcomes. CIRTL-TAR fellows manage the project with the same research skills and experimental rigor used in their graduate studies. In spring 2016, Jesse began the CDD Graduate Fellows program and is working with Dr. Meagan Sumbera, Dr. Dalun Zhang, and Dr. Laura Stough on his fellows training and research projects related to helping people with disabilities.

Project Narrative

1. Please describe your activities during your fellowship experience. Describe your final capstone project(s).
The activities during my fellowship included:
– Weekly meetings with Dr. Sumbera’s group which involved assignments to learn (general training), to conduct a literature review, to gather data or to prepare data into figures.
– Biweekly meetings with Dr. Stough regarding training activities. Occasional meetings with Dr. Stough and Dianey regarding the project designed to help people with hearing disabilities in community centers
– Independent project: Addressing the question: Are there fewer people with disabilities in graduate programs than undergraduate programs?

2. Who did your project inform, help, influence or impact? (UCEDD, individual, community, state) How?
Since a lot of this is basic research that has not yet been published, I anticipate it to help the community of people with disabilities. The impact on working with Dr. Stough’s team would be greatest for people with hearing disabilities. Dr. Sumbera’s projects involve work with evaluating postsecondary programs for people with disabilities, so I anticipate the outcome of this research to impact individuals with disabilities who want to attend a post-secondary program and also I expect this type of research to have an impact on program design for students with disabilities, including programs that are designed for students that do not meet traditional University acceptance criteria. Since research, in general, is collaborative, I have seen how good ideas through research are transmitted from different research groups/centers. Therefore my ability to participate in conducting such a research project designed toward helping or evaluating the programs offered to help people with disabilities helps improve the field for all researchers involved.

3. Why did you choose to work on that project(s)?
I chose my independent project (measuring the ratio of students with disabilities in graduate vs. undergraduate programs) because I had no acquaintances with graduate students with disabilities but know several undergraduates. Based on the small sampling of people I know, I became curious if this was a trend, and if so, why?
I was matched with Dr. Sumbera’s project because I am interested in using my career in science (academic) to help students from under-represented groups (such as students with disabilities) get opportunities in the field of science. Working with Dr. Sumbera’s group is great because it teaches me how to evaluate such programs.
I was matched with Dr. Stough’s project because of my experience with audio production/ recording (music degree) and offered my insight toward venue audio design and low-cost alternatives to helping people with hearing disabilities get hearing assistance in community centers.

4. What did you gain from being a Diversity Fellow?
I gained a great deal of experience learning how to conduct research in a realm of study completely different from my own. I have learned techniques (and importance) of evaluating programs that are designed to help students with disabilities. I have learned a lot about disability rights and the centers/organizations involved with helping people with disabilities. Thanks to my project leaders, I have also learned a lot of theory associated with researching these topics such as sensemaking, person-centered planning and supported decision making. I know a lot more about validating research designed toward helping people with disabilities.

5. How will this experience impact your education or career decisions?
I plan to be an academic researcher and teacher...along with that, my plan is to include outreach and partnership with campus disability programs to ensure that people with disabilities are not under-represented in STEM fields.

6. What are your future goals? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Hopefully, I will have a tenure track faculty job by then!

7. What recommendations do you have for other fellows?
Plan and prioritize appropriately in regards to balancing time between dissertation requirements and fellows research.

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