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Community Health Engagement and Empowerment Research (CHEER) Lab

The Community Health Engagement and Empowerment Research (CHEER) Lab provides undergraduate students with hands-on training in research skills and opportunities to work on faculty-led research projects from different disciplines within the School of Health Sciences. Undergraduate students will have opportunities to work with community and academic partners, engage in professional networking, and gain valuable experience in the field of health research. These skills and experiences enhance student success in pursuing graduate training and health careers.

Visit the CHEER Lab website to learn more about the CHEER Lab and what our students have been working on.

The mission of the CHEER Lab is to provide OU undergraduate students with research skills training and opportunities to engage in real-world health research and service through faculty-led research projects. We aim to bring forth a framework of knowledge and curiosity that prepares students to impact community health and serve as leaders in a variety of health and wellness practices.

The CHEER Lab involves two 0-credit courses. Students start with IPE 1020 - Research Skills Training. After completion of this course, students may enroll in IPE 3020 - Research Skills Applications.

IPE 1020 - Research Skills Training (0 credits)

Learning Modules
Upon joining the CHEER Lab, students will complete a sequence of learning modules to educate them on a variety of research skills. These modules include skills that will prepare students to engage in faculty-led research projects. Modules include Research Ethics and Conduct, Evidence and Literature, Data Collection Methods, Data Analysis Methods, and Sharing and Applying Findings.

Application Activities
Students will complete application activities that are in alignment with the learning modules throughout the semester to practice using research skills and to simulate a real-world research experience.

Weekly Meetings
Students will attend weekly group meetings. Some will be Research Skills Meetings, which will expand upon research skills through group activities and discussion. Others will be Journal Clubs, in which students read selected peer-reviewed journal articles on a variety of topics and engage in thoughtful group discussion. The meeting times and locations are as follows:

Fall 2023: Tuesdays, 1-2 p.m. or Wednesdays, 12-1 p.m.
Winter 2024: Wednesdays, 12-1 p.m.
Location: Collaboration Center (3124 HHB)

IPE 3020 - Research Skills Applications (0 credits)

Prerequisite: IPE 1020

Work on Faculty-Led Research Projects
Students receive hands-on experience in health research. After completing the research skills training, students have the opportunity to work on faculty-led projects as a valued member of a research team. 

Regular Meetings
Students will regularly meet with the CHEER Lab Director and Graduate Research Assistant. Students will also continue participating in a Journal Club, in which they will read selected peer-reviewed journal articles on a variety of topics and engage in thoughtful group discussion. The meeting times and location are to be determined.


Mentorship and Collaboration
Students will receive continued mentorship from the CHEER Lab Director and Graduate Research Assistant. Students will also have many opportunities to collaborate with other CHEER Lab students and faculty in the School of Health Sciences.

Why are CHEER Lab courses 0 credits?

0-credit courses provide evidence of the work you do by showing up on your transcript. 0-credit courses do not cost you any money to enroll.

Will a 0-credit course impact my GPA?

No, 0-credit courses do not impact your GPA. Students will receive a satisfactory grade based on completion of materials and engagement in the lab.

Do I have to be a student in the School of Health Sciences or interested in community health to participate in the CHEER Lab?

No! The CHEER Lab is open to students who are interested in a variety of topics and careers within all aspects of health.

There is a specific project or topic that I want to research. Can I do that in the CHEER Lab?

It's great that you are passionate about a specific topic! The CHEER lab works on a model of students working on faculty-led research projects. It might be possible to work on a project that is closely related to your passion, but there's no guarantee that faculty will have projects available that are directly aligned with your topic.

Will the CHEER Lab help me with my class research papers and projects?

While the CHEER Lab is not a tutoring service, it will provide training on many skills and topics that will be helpful in completing school research assignments. In addition to completing research skills training, the CHEER Lab Director and Graduate Research Assistant can provide research skills-based support and guidance when completing tasks related to the CHEER Lab and faculty-led research projects. It can also help connect students to research opportunities.

For assistance with understanding non-CHEER Lab assignment and/or project requirements, reviewing and editing papers for a class assignment, and other specific questions, please consult your professor or visit the resources below:

How much of a time commitment is the CHEER Lab?

Students can expect to dedicate 3-4 hours per week to completing lab-related tasks in IPE 1020. Once students begin working on faculty-led research projects in IPE 3020, the time commitment will vary based on the project and student availability.

How long can I be involved in the CHEER Lab?

The minimum length of participation is one semester to complete IPE 1020. Students may enroll in IPE 3020 for as many semesters as desired, pending approval by the CHEER Lab Faculty Director.

When can I join the CHEER Lab?

Students may join the CHEER Lab at any time during their undergraduate career. Applications are due in the second week of each semester. A student who applies for the CHEER Lab after the deadline will be considered for the following semester. Please fill out the interest form to apply! 

Is the CHEER Lab open to graduate students?

At this time, the CHEER Lab is designed to provide undergraduate students with research skills training and opportunities to be involved in research.

Through faculty-led research projects, the CHEER lab connects students with the School of Health Sciences and local organizations to help to create environments, opportunities, and resources that are conducive to improved health for all people. Recent projects include: 


Faculty: Christina Papadimitriou, Ph.D.
A remote mHealth enabled peer navigator intervention for people with disabilities transitioning to community living. A team based in Chicago that is revising an existing training curriculum to train people with disabilities to become Peer Navigators (PN). These PN will subsequently use the intervention to empower newly disabled adults with physical disabilities meet their community participation goals. 


Faculty: Jennifer Lucarelli, Ph.D.
Increasing Produce Prescription Program (PPR) Efficacy. The team is utilizing case study research with existing Michigan-based produce prescription programs to understand program management and technology needs. They are working to build a collaborative technology platform to streamline program management and evaluation that will improve the cost effectiveness of PPRs, provide better evaluation data across programs, and improve the sustainability and reach of these programs. 

Blight assessment in Pontiac 

Faculty: Jennifer Lucarelli, Ph.D.
The research team is completing on-site blight assessment measurements in Pontiac neighborhoods to help with the planning of blight reduction strategies.

Access to low-income housing in Oakland County 

Faculty: Jennifer Lucarelli, Ph.D.
Investigating local policies and practices related to access to low income housing in Oakland County.

Dissemination of research findings 

Faculty: Jennifer Lucarelli, Ph.D.
The creation of various communication tools to share important research findings with the wider community in collaboration with the Pontiac Collective Impact Partnership and the Healthy Pontiac, We Can! Coalition. An example includes creating infographics to share the findings from the 2021 Pontiac Community Survey. 

Community Health Needs Assessment in Pontiac 

Faculty: Jennifer Lucarelli, Ph.D., Laurel Stevenson, MPH, Ph.D.
In collaboration with Honor Community Health, OU faculty and students completed a comprehensive community health needs assessment.

My COVID Response

Faculty: Jennifer Lucarelli, Ph.D., Laurel Stevenson, MPH, Ph.D.
In collaboration with Lighthouse and dozens of community partners, the CHEER lab helped launch the My COVID Response emergency food delivery program, serving thousands of families throughout Oakland County.

Sheriff PAL (Police Athletic League) Program

Faculty: Jennifer Lucarelli, Ph.D., Laurel Stevenson, MPH, Ph.D.
To assist with planning efforts, the CHEER Lab interviewed PAL families to assess program satisfaction and identify additional areas of need that could be addressed through local organizations and collaborations.

Developing a relationship-centered shared decision-making (SDM) assessment

Faculty: Christina Papadimitriou, Ph.D.
The research team works with rehab clinicians and caregivers of persons who cannot self-report due to severe cognitive disabilities. They study shared decision-making (SDM) among clinicians, caregivers and patients in the clinic. They are developing an observer assessment that would capture skills of SDM.

Persons Experiencing Homelessness Project

Faculty: Jennifer Lucarelli, Ph.D.
Preliminary work for a housing related project that community partners have been interested in launching. This will involve digging into background information on local policies and practices related to access to low income housing in Oakland County.

Shared Decision-Making in Spinal Cord Injury-Related Chronic Pain Management

Faculty: Edward Rohn, Ph.D.
The objective of the study is two-fold: 1) to improve understanding of the ways in which patients and clinicians communicate, negotiate and make decisions around spinal cord injury (SCI)-related chronic pain (CP) management, in order to 2) inform the tailoring of an existing shared decision-making (SDM) aid to address CP decision-making processes specifically for persons with SCI and their health care professionals (HCPs). This study applies a novel, mixed methods approach. In particular, the use of video ethnography combined with video elicitation interviews to provide new insights. Synthesizing anticipated findings into the development of an Option Grid SDM aid for SCI-CP will contribute new tools for SCI-CP care. Vetting this aid with community stakeholders will assure its applicability and usefulness.

Preparing a grant application/eventual data collection for a quantitative survey project assessing health behaviors in college athletes

Faculty: Emily Van Wasshenova, Ph.D.
The project is still in the development stages, but generally the aim is to identify gaps in the literature on health behaviors and disordered eating in college athletes. If the grant is funded, we will collaborate with the OU Athletic Department for this project - this department may have additional aims or purposes that will be added onto the project.

Hormones and Affective Change in Exercise (HACE) Study

Faculty: Kate Rougeau, Ph.D.
The HACE study aims to decipher psychophysiological effects of different types of cycling (volitional vs. motor-driven). By using a custom build cycle ergometer (bike), they will be examining the effects of physical activity (PA) on hormones (testosterone and cortisol), emotional affect (calmness, tension, energy, tiredness and state anxiety) as well as personality differences and behavior decision making during and following active (volitional) and passive (motor-driven) cycling. It is their aim to transition to collect pilot data from individuals with spinal cord injuries by summer for a grant application.

Student Interest

Are you an OU undergraduate student looking for research experience? Follow the steps below, or email [email protected] for more information! Applications are due in the second week of each semester. A student who applies for the CHEER Lab after this time will be considered for the following semester. 

  1. Fill out the interest form
  2. Instructor will submit a registration override
  3. After you receive a confirmation email, you can register for IPE 1020 on MySail


Show your support for improving community health and undergraduate student research by making an online gift to “SHS-Gifts - Interdisciplinary Health Sciences (30395)” and enter “CHEER Lab” in the lower comments panel.

Emily Van Wasshenova, Ph.D.

Dr. Van Wasshenova, assistant professor of interdisciplinary health sciences, is the faculty director of the CHEER Lab. In this role, she facilitates the training of undergraduate students in basic research skills and coordinates with expert faculty across the School of Health Sciences to offer an array of multidisciplinary research opportunities.

Laurel Ammond

Laurel Ammond is a Master of Public Health Candidate and the CHEER Lab Graduate Research Assistant. She coordinates the development of the CHEER Lab online learning modules, policies and procedures, Moodle, and marketing materials. She also assists in the training of undergraduate researchers and coordinates with expert faculty across the School of Health Sciences.

The CHEER Lab broadened my perspective to different kinds of research and the impact that it can have, such as the work we did with the PAL program in Pontiac and the efforts to improve it. The CHEER Lab also provided me with a great start to my career in research and connected me with amazing people to learn from. I am excited to continue my research journey with the lab and learn more about the community in Pontiac and how I can help.”
- Sofia Mansour, Health Sciences / Pre-Health Professional Studies major

“My experience of being a part of the CHEER Lab has been really eye opening. I have never conducted research and going into college seemed like such a scary thing. I became involved when some of the CHEER Lab’s research was shown in one of my health classes. Immediately after class I asked the professor for more information so I could volunteer and be a part of it. Ever since my sophomore year at OU I have contributed to the team. Although I joined right around the time COVID-19 hit, that didn’t stop us. The majority of the research I contributed was during the pandemic and was something I could do from home. We had several zoom and phone calls throughout this time and it was a great learning experience. Now the concept of research isn’t so scary and I know if it involves public health it's something that actually excites me!”
- Sarah Evans, Health Sciences major

School of Health Sciences

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