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Nine scholars received special Hillman Advancing Early Research Opportunities (AERO) grants this fall, awarding them each $5,000 to fund their work. The goal of the Hillman AERO small grant is to support scholar research that represents a significant step in building a trajectory of work that leads to the publication or development of an innovation. Stefanie updated the program office as follows.

Stefanie Zavodny Jackson, BSN, PhD, RN and lecturer at UPenn Nursing was able to achieve a sample of participants for her dissertation in 5 months, thanks to the AERO grant she was awarded.  She needed 245 mothers to participate in a survey online to conduct research the experience of mothers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. “their voices [are] missing from the research narratives,” she explained, “and as a clinician, I [think] it is important to characterize the variety of experiences that exist behind the quantitative data.” Her research builds on an interest in autism spectrum disorder from personal friends and family, and her advisor, Dr. Margaret Souders, with whom she worked clinically in child and adolescent psychiatry.

“I got involved in research because I wanted to help answer question that arose during my clinicals, to improve nursing practice and patient outcomes,” Zavodny Jackson told us over e-mail, “A PhD seemed like a natural next step, so I could have more independence in my research and more influence over practice and policy.” After graduating in May of this year, she started a new job as a nurse working with people with intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities. She is also teaching in the Autism minor courses lead by Dr. Souders.  Her incredibly varied body of work and research thus far is in perfect alignment with the innovative values of Hillman. “To me, innovation means doing something new or thinking about something in a new way,” she told us. “It doesn’t always have to be ground-breaking, and it almost never happens in a single ‘eureka’ moment.”

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