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OUR Undergraduate Research Spotlight: Luke Nguyen


Luke Hoang Nguyen is doing research on mental health here at UNC.
Luke Hoang Nguyen is doing research on mental health here at UNC.

Ever since he was a high school student, UNC undergraduate Luke Nguyen has wanted to analyze how race might impact the ways Asian American and white American college students seek help for their mental health. With funding from the UNC Office for Undergraduate Research, he was able to form, plan, and execute a summer research project based on his interest. He talked to us about what he learned from his research as well as the knowledge he gained from executing a research project.

Luke said the project originated from “wondering if my own experience as an Asian American is what led me to view therapy differently than my non-Asian peers.” He put together a survey-based project and recruited a fellow undergraduate, Iniya Muthukumaren, to help, then worked remotely via Zoom with Dr. Muscatell and Dr. Gaudier-Diaz to survey 500 college students, 491 of which were used in his research project. Luke was pleasantly surprised by the high response rate, “especially because we didn’t give any incentive for a 15-mins survey,” which he said let him know “more people are interested in talking about mental health and in mental health research” than he originally thought.

Luke asked students about their help-seeking behavior in terms of searching for mental health support, and how issues of acculturation, family conflict, and socio-economic status influenced their behavior. The data he collected showed “that there was little to no interaction between the three independent variables and help-seeking attitudes but there were significant differences between Asian American college students and white college students.” Overall, Luke and his team discovered that Asian Americans had less positive attitudes towards seeking help than White Americans do.

When asked about what he gained from the experience, Luke said that people shouldn’t “go into research expecting a result.” He noted how the process offered him “a real look at the psych research process,” noting it “really gave me a challenge and prepared me for what’s going to happen if I go to graduate school.” He said he appreciated the difference between reading about research and actually doing it, describing the process as “extremely helpful.” Moreover, he describes the benefits of working with Dr. Muscatell and Dr. Gaudier-Diaz in glowing terms, stating that they were “incredibly helpful and supportive,” and mentioning how Muscatell made herself available during a difficult summer. Luke describes both faculty members as being very supportive. Furthermore, he stressed how much he gained in both time management and communication skills.

Luke said that he learned “survey research is very specific. You can’t mislead the participant in your introduction to your survey or through any vague wording.” He made sure to note that research is “very detail-oriented. The difference between one word, like attitude and behavior, can change a survey completely.” Luke also found that in his experience the data analysis was relatively quick compared to the creation and distribution of his survey, and that there is always a gap in the results, which in turn paves the way for future research.

Offering advice for students who want to take part in research, Luke said “don’t be afraid to go out there and research the craziest thing. No idea is a bad idea. Think outside the box and follow your passions.”

Visit the Office for Undergraduate Research website or contact us at the to learn about undergraduate research opportunities here at UNC!