Sara Iisaka (she/her) class of ’22

Sara Iisaka (she/her) has always been intrigued by the way people’s perceptions about themselves are influenced by the circumstances and environment around them. Needless to say, the COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted the entire world in various, complex ways. Following her curiosity, Iisaka took part in a research project in the midst of the pandemic that looked into how people’s perceptions of their weight, body image, exercise, and eating habits in relation to eating disorder symptoms have been impacted by COVID-19. 

Iisaka is currently a senior (‘22) double majoring in Dance Performance and Psychology. After pursuing a professional career in dance at a contemporary dance company, she hopes to return to graduate school for Health Psychology. Looking to gain experience in research, Iisaka joined Dr. David Frederick’s lab at the beginning of the pandemic to pursue a project titled “Weight Change, Body Image, and Disordered Eating During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Iisaka states, “It has become incredibly prevalent in the news for media sources to stigmatize overweight individuals or weight gain in general through jokes about the “Quarantine-15” or pressuring messages to lose weight during the pandemic.” 

In order to collect more meaningful data on the currently relevant topic of the COVID-19 pandemic, Iisaka applied for and was awarded the Scholarly/Creative Grant from the Center for Undergraduate Excellence (CUE). This grant is offered every semester for scholars at Chapman University and supports creative or academic projects. It can be used for purchasing necessary equipment, facility rentals, and travel expenses. 

The funds from the grant allowed Iisaka to reach a greater participant pool on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, through which she was able to incentivize individuals to participate through a small patent in return for the completion of the survey. Specifically, it allowed Iisaka to access a participant pool of over 2,000 individuals. Further, she states, “obtaining a greater understanding of participants’ experiences during these challenging times will enable a better understanding of how to combat these prevalent experiences of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating, both of which are often considered taboo topics.”

Iisaka reflects on her time working on the project, “my research experience has given me more confidence in my autonomy as a curious learner. It has empowered me to ask greater questions about the world we live in and find proactive ways to find answers and further develop science.” 

If you are interested in finding out more about the Undergraduate Scholarly/Creative Grant, go to our website! CUE is now accepting proposals for the Spring 2022 Scholarly/Creative grant until April 8, 2022. These grants are given out every semester and fund numerous projects in addition to conference travel fees across campus. All researchers and/or those engaging in other scholarly creative projects are highly encouraged to apply in the next cycle for a chance to receive up to $1,000 dollars towards their project!

Interested in applying for other future fellowships, scholarships, and grant opportunities? Make sure to follow us on facebook and instagram for updates and more information.  View or website or email us at