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Biological Sciences


Rebekka Darner

Mentor Department

Biological Sciences


COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-Cov-2 virus, which likely emerged through a spillover from a viral reservoir bat population in China in late 2019. Since that time, COVID-19 has caused more than 5.22 million deaths worldwide. The SARS-Cov-2 causes respiratory illness and is especially serious for those with chronic illness, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Despite evidence that masking, vaccination, and social distancing prevent illness, such measures are controversial among some ideologies. We embarked on this study to better understand how college/university students evaluate scientific information related to the pandemic in this contentious context. College/university students are of particular interest because they are emerging adults, undergoing substantial identity development as they differentiate their unique identities from that of parents and other influential adults. Through semi-structured clinical interviews, we investigate college/university students’ self-reported social-distancing behaviors, opinions about the pandemic, dis/trust in scientists and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and reasoning patterns when evaluating information related to the pandemic. The first two presenters, student near-peers, conducted the interviews of five college/university students. Interviews were transcribed and qualitatively coded by both presenters and their mentor. Emergent codes included politicization of the pandemic, dis/trust in the CDC, dis/trust of scientists, pandemic-related conflict with family/friends, and issues of identity. A cluster analysis among between codes will reveal associations and patterns among these codes, thereby allowing evidence-based hypotheses to explain how social expectations related to the pandemic influence college/university student identity development.

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