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Undergraduate Research Center

Sophia Roberts

  • SOAR Position: Member; Ambassador/ORSP Research Assistant; Alumni
  • Major: Sociology/Social Justice
  • Faculty Mentor(s): Dr. Alisa Hass, Dr. Adelle Monteblanco

Current Focus: Don’t Sweat It: An Exploration of Effective Heat Risk Communication to Today’s Youth

Additional Interests: Environmental Sociology, Environmental Justice, Social Media

Project Description

Extreme heat is the deadliest meteorological hazard and heat events are becoming more frequent, more intense, and lasting longer. Unlike tornadoes and hurricanes, heat is often an overlooked threat as it is an invisible hazard, making heat risk communication (HRC) to the public even more important. While federal agencies and researchers have improved communication products to the public, these rarely target teens, an underserved population in heat research that have unique heat exposure patterns. This project aims to determine the effectiveness of current teen-targeted communication products and how these can be improved. We analyzed qualitative survey data and teen-created HRC products that were collected during our summer 2022 Urban Heat Youth Fellows program. We also collected HRC products used within the last 5 years from federal agencies. We used thematic and hierarchal coding to determine preferences in distribution platforms, factors, and topics. We then used content analysis to determine common themes in federal agencies’ HRC products and compare these data with teen preferences. The results of this research provide recommendations for more effective teen-targeted HRC to reduce exposure and heat-related illnesses and reach larger audiences.

Why does this topic interest you?

Growing up in the south, I have had my fair share of its humid heat during summertime. While tornadoes and floods were well discussed and prepared for, heat seemed to take the back burner of concern. After serving as a Research Assistant for the Urban Heat Youth Fellows program research project, I eagerly continued my work adjacent to the topic. My research focus aligns well with both my interests of environmental justice and sociology. I have since grown an additional interest in social media’s role in environmental justice and climate change related issues. These topics remain core to my pursuits in research, both in and outside of the classroom.

What are your professional aspirations?

I aspire to work in environmental research while contributing to education and outreach efforts. Connecting communities with resources and knowledge is a top priority of mine, especially those who face disproportionate climate and/or socioeconomic realities.

Do you have any advice for future researchers?

Never be afraid to ask for help, clarification, further direction, etc. from your faculty mentors–they are your biggest supporters and resources! Conducting research is bound to feel overwhelming and stressful at times, so don’t neglect yourself! Always remember to take care of your mind and body.

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Thursday, September 5th, 4:30pm

Learn more about URECA

Contact us

Jamie Burriss, Ph.D., Director
(615) 494-7669 
Jamie.Burriss@mtsu.edu

Casey Penston, Coordinator
(615) 809-4588 
Casey.Penston@mtsu.edu

Learn more about the URC