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Department ofSociology


Emma Kemper

Emma Kemper

Emma Kemper '22 builds research skills

Emma's experience as a research assistant in the sociology department

My name is Emma Kemper, and I am about to start my senior year at SCU. I am a sociology major with minors in entrepreneurship and political science. This past year, I was given the opportunity to work as a research assistant for Professor Di and her study on the intersections between ethics, religion, and technology. The project is funded by “The Sociology of Science and Religion: Identity and Belief Formation” funding initiative from the Templeton Religion Trust and a Hackworth Grant from the Markkula Center for Applied Science.

As we all know and have experienced, this past year and a half has been strange and at times unsettling. Confronted by a global pandemic, students had to adapt to the new social and academic norms that came with online learning. My position as a research assistant for Professor Di was extremely helpful in this process. Through weekly meetings and tasks, I felt more connected to the school and to the sociology department.

In addition to the support system I gained from this position, I was able to grow my skills as a researcher and learn about what it takes to conduct a study beyond what I had learned from my classes at SCU. This experience has been valuable because I was able to participate and observe the research process at a very early stage. I first helped to review the materials that would be submitted to the IRB, and then I helped to recruit interviewees.

The majority of my hours were spent transcribing interviews. Although this is a task commonly labeled as tedious among researchers, it was actually one of my favorite parts of the job. The study’s interest in insights related to tech, religion, and ethics felt especially relevant during a time of online school and work from home. I was able to listen to tech professionals in various positions around Silicon Valley talk about how technology fits into their personal, social, and work lives, as well as learn about any challenges and benefits they may experience.

I was then able to engage more deeply with the material through beginning the coding process. Professor Di and I both scanned the interview transcripts and came up with a few themes that we then compared in one of our weekly meetings. I enjoyed the collaborative aspect of this process and was interested to learn about the fluidity of coding. It takes multiple scans through the material to discover new themes. I look forward to learning more throughout this process and am extremely grateful for the experience I have had so far.