Focus on Fellowship: Amanda Jiang ’20

Beyond the Kahn

By Sofia Trotta ’23

Lately, Amanda Jiang ’20 has been working on a new protocol to explore the efficacy of an alternative-based intervention to reduce stress and improve the quality of life for COVID-19 healthcare workers.

Amanda Jiang

It’s just one way Jiang, who spent her senior year at Smith as a Kahn Institute fellow in the yearlong project Fear, is using skills she gained in her fellowship.

Jiang is employed as a postbaccalaureate research fellow at the National Institutes of Health, a biomedical research center in Bethesda, Maryland, where she has worked since shortly after her graduation. In general, her job entails examining interventions for chronic stress and post-traumatic stress.

When asked what she finds most interesting about her current job, Amanda stated that despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, her work has allowed her to find creative and relevant ways to continue contributing to society.

“As a response to the toll that COVID-19 has taken on healthcare workers’ mental health, we initiated a new intervention project examining the effect of a combined nature-mindfulness program on healthcare workers’ well being,” she described. “To ensure the safety of our participants, we and our collaborators are following strict physical distancing protocols and extensive screening procedures. We even created a virtual mindfulness program as a replacement for traditional in-person mindfulness sessions.”

One aspect Jiang enjoys about her job is its continuing adaptation. “Despite challenges, my colleagues and I still manage to move forward with our research,” she said. “Our research evolves, rather than becoming hindered during [these] unprecedented times, and this is what I find interesting about my job.”

Reflecting on her time at Smith, Amanda remembers entering as a transfer student, knowing that she wanted to pursue an independent fellowship.

“Kahn came to me when I needed it most,” she recalled. “The fellowship gave me an opportunity to be a principal investigator of my own research project, a freedom that’s rare in undergrad studies. I believe that Kahn contributed to my growth as a scholar and a human being.”

“Our ideas are limitless and what we can do is boundless.”

As a Kahn fellow, Jiang wrote an IRB protocol, recruited participants, and shaped her research, from beginning to end, with her own vision. “The fellowship gave me the opportunity to meet scholars from various backgrounds and be part of an interdisciplinary ‘family’ that loves to exchange ideas and share thoughts.”

Amanda Jiang

Jiang applies the skills she developed at the Kahn every day on her NIH job. Similar to leading her own protocol at Kahn, she is currently leading a manuscript project at the NIH. “While developing my Kahn project, I connected with community health allies who offered a wealth of knowledge on trauma and immigrant mental wellbeing,” she said.

Working in concert with others is another skill she took away from her time at the Kahn. “Through Kahn, I developed a passion to collaborate. I met fellows from diverse backgrounds, and I acquired so much wisdom from our weekly conversations. Now, at the NIH, I love meeting researchers from various disciplines and discussing science and life with them. At the NIH, collaborations are never-ending.”

Amanda offers three pieces of advice for current and future Kahn student fellows.

"First, I would tell fellows to pursue a project that they are passionate about,” she said. “Passion can sustain motivation.”

Second, stay organized and manage time well to make the most out of those you connect and collaborate with. “The more people fellows speak with, the more informed and diversified their ideas will be.”

Finally, don’t give up even when hitting roadblocks. “It’s okay to experience uncertainty,” said Jiang. “Breathe. Kahn gives students the freedom to pursue whatever they want.”

The most important lesson Amanda learned from the Kahn?

“Our ideas are limitless and what we can do is boundless.”