Senior wins national history award for research

two people standing in front of research poster
Senior Alexis Hansen, right, stands with Lawrence Burns, professor of psychology, in front of their research poster mapping transgender studies throughout history. Hansen won a the Joan Nestle Award, a national award, for her research.
Image credit - Valerie Wojciechowski

Alexis Hansen, a senior who is a double major in psychology and biomedical sciences, won a national history award — the Joan Nestle Award — for her research article focusing on a topography of transgender studies.

Entering a history contest might be unusual for someone who is applying to medical schools, but Hansen said the research she conducted as an undergraduate will someday make her a better physician.

"I would like to someday work in transgender health," Hansen said. "My classes here have given me exposure to the difficulty the transgender community often has when navigating health care and I would like to help."

Hansen, who has minors in chemistry and LGBTQ studies, secured an independent research project with Lawrence Burns, professor of psychology. Their project focused on mapping transgender studies throughout history to examine relations between the trans perspective and other disciplines. 

"What it shows is that experts in different disciplines are not talking to each other. If ideas are shared across disciplines, people will understand better and be able to help the trans community," she said.

Hansen and Burns will present their research at the Midwestern Psychological Association conference in Chicago in the spring.

Hansen was a REACH Scholar, working with the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship. Similar to the McNair Scholars program, REACH participants conduct research and receive academic and career counseling, including help with graduate or medical school applications.

Hansen plans to apply to Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine through the early assurance agreement between MSU and Grand Valley.

The Joan Nestle Prize is awarded every two years by the American History Association's Committee on LGBT History to an undergraduate student who has written an article on LGBTQ history.



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