STEP Reflection

Name: Jacob Caponi

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research

  1. My STEP Signature Project consisted of being a research assistant with sociology graduate student Brandon Moore on the PrEP Perception Study. PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is used to prevent HIV. I transcribed interviews, conducted interviews, analyzed data, and reported findings from the study in my position.
  2. Overall, through this project I was able to develop critical thinking and professional skills. The position of research assistant gave me the experience of understanding how research development takes place in a large institution such as OSU. I was able to develop my own questions surrounding how individuals perceived PrEP usage while gaining knowledge from participants about how history, biology, politics, and society all play a role in perception of PrEP usage. Combining all of these perspectives allowed me to find my passion for public health which is the major I changed to after pursuing this research project. Without this research position I may have not found my passion for public health as quickly.
  3.           In order to begin the project the proposal had to be submitted through different IRBs – OSU and the city health department where the study was conducted. This was done to recruit participants, but I learned how research is a process and not a simple “ah-ha” moment often portrayed in the media. Social science research begins with an idea and requires many steps before participants are even interviewed. I learned how to navigate queer spaces to promote this project and understood how society functions to create spaces for “others” in a physical and medical sense. As a first time “investigator” this was a big step in being culturally competent with my intended participants.

Once the previous was accomplished I was able to hear the stories of individuals who lived as men who have sex with men (MSM). Ages varied and learning of gay history was a first as it is often excluded from the heteronormative history taught in schools. Significant to this research project, how MSM view a medication that could save their life, was the AIDS crisis. Comparing older MSM narratives to younger MSM provided insight to how HIV/AIDS is viewed.

The relationship with my mentor, Brandon Moore, provided me with the dedication to pursue graduate school. Brandon was able to give me advice and motivation to apply for grants, interview individuals, and share this project at community events. Brandon also helped read over my personal statement for a masters in public health which I was accepted into for next year.


  1. This project allowed me to find my passion for public health and gender and sexual minorities. Understanding the perception of PrEP medication aligns with my minor in pharmaceutical sciences and also my major in public health. I was able to find a mentor who encouraged independent, critical thinking which sparked my interest in graduate school. I also am able to take the skills from this research project and apply them in graduate school where I will continue research. My future plan is to get my PhD and become a professor/researcher.