May 7, 2020

Sydney Seidel takes innovative approach in researching effects of vaping among young adults

Psychology student one of 25 finalists in SSHRC's 2020 Storytellers Competition

The top 25 finalists of the 2020 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Storytellers Competition were announced May 6, and UCalgary’s Sydney Seidel was selected as a finalist among applicants from across the country.

Seidel, an honours student in the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, submitted a video entry to the contest, entitled Investigating E-cigarette Use in Young Adults. Seidel is one of two finalists from UCalgary.

An exploration of the effects of the use of e-cigarettes, commonly known as “vaping,” among young adults, Seidel’s entry to the Storytellers contest includes her voice and narrative interspersed with compelling headlines around the issue from different publications nationwide. “I wanted my submission to be something that people across the country could find relatable within their respective provinces and jurisdictions,” explains Seidel.

Currently, limited research and knowledge exist around e-cigarettes and vaporizers as they are relatively new products. This unchartered research territory was the driving force behind Seidel’s inspiration. With mentorship from her supervisors Dr. Daniel McGrath, PhD, and Dr. Tavis Campbell, PhD, Seidel embarked on the E-cigarette Use in Young Adults project for her honours thesis in the psychology program.

Carried out through a smartphone app, Seidel’s research used surveys conducted over the course of a week to investigate patterns of vaping among young adults. This helped Seidel gauge the realistic use of e-cigarettes outside the research lab. “It’s important that we investigate the real-world use of these products to develop a better understanding of their potential impacts,” she explains.

Topical issue during Covid-19 pandemic

Seidel's research findings come at a critical time, given the current media discourse around the possibility of increased COVID-19 symptoms experienced by e-cigarette users.

“This research may be valuable right now since understanding how vaping products are used can help contribute to a better understanding of the respiratory implications that they may have,” says Seidel.

“E-cigarette use and vaping products have become the source of hot debate in recent months. Many different governments and health officials are seeking to regulate these products and keep them out of the hands of youth. As well, we’ve also seen a recent development of lung injuries and in some cases deaths which have been related to these products."

Connecting with the UCalgary Knowledge Engagement team

Before submitting her entry, Seidel participated in a workshop tailored to assisting students with research communication and storytelling. This event was hosted by the newly formed Knowledge Engagement team in Research Services, a unit specializing in knowledge mobilization and supporting partnerships for research with impact.

“I think the [Knowledge Engagement] team did a great job in helping us think outside the box with our projects and encouraged us to adapt our research to attract a wide audience,” says Seidel.

“It can be challenging to be succinct when explaining research, especially when you want to get a specific message across in a creative way within a short period of time. One of the most valuable things that I took away was the power of communication — an important tool for researchers, especially when it comes to conveying your message to the public.”

Looking ahead, Seidel hopes to pave the way for more public knowledge surrounding e-cigarette use. “I think in the future it would be really interesting to investigate the health and addiction implications behind these products since these concepts remain poorly understood,” Seidel says.

How the Storytellers Competition works

Through submissions of up to three minutes or 300 words, the SSHRC’s Storytellers Competition challenges post-secondary students to describe their SSHRC-funded project and to demonstrate how their research has an impact on our lives and communities. Each of the contest finalists receives a cash prize of $3,000 and the opportunity to compete in the Storytellers Showcase, where they must learn to effectively communicate their research in front of a live audience. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this has been postponed to the 2021 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, which will take place from May 29 to June 4, 2021, at the University of Alberta. The Final Five winners chosen at that event will be featured at SSHRC’s Impact Awards ceremony, to be held in fall 2021.

UCalgary resources on COVID-19

For the most up-to-date information about the University of Calgary's response to the spread of COVID-19, visit the UCalgary COVID-19 Response website.