Ella Lukens

Health disco OG image
Ella Lukens

Ella Lukens

Health disco academic program
First year, Human development and family sciences Child development option, pre-med track
healthy disco cohort year


My name is Ella Lukens, and I am a first-year student. My major is human development and family science with an option in child development. 

The research project

The research project I participated in was the Flame Retardants and Home Environment on Children’s School Readiness project. The purpose of this research project is to determine if the amount of flame retardants a child is exposed to impacts their cognitive and behavioral functioning. This is done by the child playing four games with one of the research assistants, which is something I got to administer. These games included things such as reading, math and sorting cards with different pictures. After the assessment was complete, the child wore a wristband for seven days. This wristband collected the flame-retardant chemicals that the child encountered within their environment. This then got analyzed in a lab.  

For this project, we first had to get certified in human subject research because we were going to be working with preschoolers, kindergartners and first graders. We also had to get certified on the four assessments/games that we played with the children. After we were cleared in all areas regarding fingerprinting and other protocols, we visited local Corvallis schools to give the assessments to the children who signed up to participate in the study. 

My inspiration  

The biggest inspiration for me when choosing this area of research was the fact that its focus was on child development. I have known for many years now that I want my future job to be working with children. I grew up with my mom teaching at elementary schools, so I had job and volunteer opportunities there. I have experience working and interacting with young children, but I never had experience interacting with children regarding data collection and an entire research process. I figured if I wanted to work in the medical field with children in the future, having experience working with them in a scientific research setting would be an amazing experience. That is what drew me to this project and inspired me to apply to be a part of it. 


 Ella Lukens research poster

My experience with research

Before joining the project team, I did not know what to expect. A big reason why I decided to attend Oregon State was because it is such a good research university, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. When I thought about research, I tended to think about reading, analyzing and maybe math. But this project was very fun, hands-on, and never boring. We had weekly meetings, went into the office to participate in data entry, and we got to go out into local Corvallis schools. Overall, the experience was very worthwhile. I think being on a research project brings you out of your comfort zone. You get to learn a lot of new things and meet a lot of new people. Something that stood out to me is how supportive everyone around you is. They want you to succeed. I did not realize how much fun I could have while completing scientific research. I think that because of joining this project I developed a lot of new, professional skill sets that I can continue to use in the future.

What was your path to OSU?  

When I was nearing the end of high school, I knew I didn’t want to stay in California for college. I was ready to move away from my hometown to experience and build my own life.

All of my senior year, I was convinced that I would go to the University of Oregon. But after I came up to visit Corvallis, I realized that Oregon State was the school for me.

I was really drawn to OSU because of how many different major options there were. I knew I wanted my major to be related to public health, and Oregon State had specific and unique majors tailored to exactly what I was looking for.

I wanted to pick the school that was going to fit my academic needs the best, and that happened to be Oregon State. I also just loved the campus and the people I talked to while touring. Oregon State felt like a place I could call home.

Why are you interested in research?   

I am very interested in research, and it is one of the main reasons why I chose to attend Oregon State.

While visiting campus, faculty talked highly about all the different research opportunities you could be part of, which is something I definitely knew I wanted to give a shot my freshman year.

Within research, I am gaining knowledge and valuable skills that will be useful in my future. Research, and especially the research I have the opportunity to participate in with kids, is really building up my skillset.

I am learning about all the different rules and regulations that have to be followed, how to collect accurate data, how to work with and be part of a team, and so much more.

I hope to work with kids in the future and I have never had the chance to interact with them in a scientific manner until now. So, I am learning new things, meeting new people and discovering that research is really fun.

Why did you want to be part of Healthy Discoveries?  

None of the friends I have met this year are taking part in any research, and I feel like that is because they did not know about it or enough about what it entails.

I want to share my experience and background to show others that you can start research your freshman year and it is not as scary as you might think.

Even if you feel like everyone around you knows more or seems more confident, that is not the case. Everyone was nervous at one point, and you are not alone.

Being part of research is going to teach you something, whether that ends up being positive or negative. Either way, I would say research is going to teach you more about yourself and help guide you along your academic path.

What research will you be working on and with whom?

I will be working on the Interplay Study, which is also known as the Flame Retardant Study. The purpose of this study is to see how flame-retardant chemicals affect a child's behavior and development.

My mentor is Megan MacDonald, but I am working with many different faculty and other students because the team for this project is pretty large.

What are your future career or academic plans?

I plan on attending medical school in the future and hopefully becoming a pediatrician. I know I want a medicine-related career that's working with children.


The Healthy Discoveries undergraduate research program is made possible with the generous support of the Patricia Valian Reser Fund for Experiential Learning.