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The University of Kentucky (UK) College of Public Health’s (CPH) undergraduate research program fosters student curiosity and development through mentored, self-directed work. Many students begin their research with CPH 395, Undergraduate Independent Studies in Public Health.

When current CPH student in the Bachelor of Public Health (BPH) program Grace Mullikin applied for CPH 395, focusing on the deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) population did not occur to her. 

However, Mullikin was paired with mentor Julie Jacobs, MPH, Research Program Administrator, University of Kentucky Department of Otolaryngology at the UK College of Medicine. During her first meeting with her mentor, Mullikin said Jacobs asked her numerous questions about what she would like to get out of the experience.  

“For example, during that same first meeting, Julie asked if I would rather work with qualitative or quantitative data. I told her qualitative, and she had interview transcripts from parents of DHH children in my inbox the very next week,” Mullikin says.  

The transcripts contained interviews with parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing and focused on the experiences of DHH children and their parents during the COVID pandemic. 

“I had the opportunity to hear their stories of struggles and triumphs of parenting a DHH child,” Mullikin says.  

This amazing experience led to a research poster that Mullikin presented at the recent 2023 Early Hearing Detection Institute Annual Conference (see image below) to DHH individuals, members of academia, policymakers, and people from all over the country.  

“Our project recently received the green light to expand outside of Kentucky, so it was great to try and recruit DHH families across the country,” Mullikin says. “The DHH population is often a group left out of conversation, so it was a great experience to be able to meet these individuals and learn about their lives.” 

Jacobs says it’s been a pleasure to work with Mullikin. 

“Grace has made significant contributions to our analysis process and brought a fresh, new perspective to our work,” Jacobs recalls. “Many students don’t get the opportunity to work on qualitative analysis in their coursework, and we feel incredibly fortunate to be matched with students like Grace, who have so much to offer in a research lab environment, particularly with her undergraduate training in public health.” 

Sarah C. Vos, PhD, assistant professor at CPH and the director of undergraduate research for the college, says students in CPH 395 may assist with literature reviews, administer surveys and interviews, analyze data, present at conferences, or prepare manuscripts for publication. 

“CPH 395 gives students a better sense of how research works,” Vos says. “It is a very applied, practical experience.” 

Vos says that this course works best for students who are independent and self-motivated.  

“CPH 395 is really a pathway to doing more research,” Vos notes. “We have students who come out of this course who work for several semesters with the same faculty member. Students apply for fellowships, and present at conferences. Our students can gain a lot of skills and knowledge. They get one on one mentorship, and that’s very different than being in a big class.” 

For those students potentially interested in applying for CPH 395, Mullikin says to go for it. 

“I was assigned to the team and jumped right in,” she says. “It has given me valuable real-world experience of working on a team with professionals. 

“Also, it is a great resume booster. Research is so important for many graduate school applications. CPH 395 makes the process of finding a research team super easy.  It is difficult to find research teams on campus all on your own, so being enrolled in CPH 395 helps alleviate all that trouble!  

“I would definitely recommend all CPH students to partake in undergraduate research.” 

Applying to CPH 395

Students applying for the fall 2023 semester of CPH 395 will need to submit a transcript, writing sample, and resume by March 24, 2023. 

Anyone with questions can email Vos at To apply for the course, fill out the application form here

To learn more about our programs, people, and passion for public health, visit

Student Grace Mulliken standing in front of her research abstract