Armita Jamshidi, a Cornell University Laidlaw Scholar, on helping women, becoming a researcher and creating a sustainable future.
Research title: Pilot Study: Assessing the Efficacy of the Supplementation of ‘Period Bites’ on Primary Dysmenorrhea in Women Aged From 18-25 Years.
This summer, I researched, designed, and conducted an IRB-approved pilot study examining how a snack could potentially act as a nutraceutical to naturally and sustainably help alleviate symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea (period cramps/menstrual pain) in women aged 18 to 25 years.
Primary dysmenorrhea (PD) is a gynecological condition defined by a cramping pain in the lower abdomen in the absence of a pelvicpathology. A recent report found that PD is the leading cause of school and work absenteeism in adolescent and young adultwomen. Needless to say, PD thoroughly pervades the female population within the United States and across the world.
There continues to lie major gaps in research surrounding women’s menstrual health, so much that PD symptoms have become extremely familiar. However, it is important to note that while period cramps are common, that does not mean they are normal.
My research this summer just scratched the surface of how PD symptoms can be addressed in a more natural, convenient way. Through providing women with the period snack or placebo and tracking the extremity of their pelvic and abdominal pain in a pilot clinical trial, we can effectively test the protocol to make appropriate modifications to progress this research.
If proved to work, this product could finally serve as a resource for women who consistently suffer from period cramps/menstrual pain that is more convenient and sustainable than current solutions on the market.
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Where did your passion for this research originate?
My research originates from my cultural background. My parents emigrated from Iran in the late 1990s; many of the females in my extended family and I constantly suffered horrible period cramps, and my grandmother would make us a snack from Iran to help alleviate the pain.
I never really thought of my grandma’s recipe as valuable until I came to Cornell and joined a research lab examining PCOS – a prevalent gynecological disorder – and I discovered the extensive lack of research within the field of women’s menstrual health. I was also part of a ‘women in entrepreneurship’ program at Cornell, and upon understanding how great the research discrepancy is, I proposed the business idea and received valuable feedback while I underwent customer discovery. I made the decision to try and start this business out of frustration of the solutions on the market today and out of a tribute to my cultural roots. I ended up receiving funding to start my idea up this summer, and that is how my research started.
Recently I was hospitalized for the first time ever, and it was actually because of my period cramps. Though extremely scary, it is a reminder of the lack of solutions for the common disorder. Hopefully my study can make a ripple in the water and progress research within the field of women’s menstrual health.
What is the most memorable moment from your Laidlaw experience?
My favorite part about this summer was connecting with other scholars at Cornell both intellectually and socially. I came into the program not knowing anyone who I was spending my summer with, but I was remarkably rewarded to find individuals who challenged me analytically and who I was able to spend time with exploring the Ithaca area.
My favorite memory was when two of the scholars and I went to get tacos next to the Ithaca reuse center. Summer, one of my friends, had introduced it to us, and we would go multiple times a week. We were talking to the gentleman making the tacos, Eduardo, who told us all about how he makes the tacos solely because he wants to share his culture, not for profit. He had put up a small stand and would cook his heart out every day; the tacos Eduardo made were no ordinary tacos, though. His tacos are single handedly the best tacos I have ever had, and it was from a one-man-show who had put up a tiny stand next to an Ithaca thrift store.
What is the biggest challenge you came across, and what did you learn from it?
Though I was only in Ithaca for a little over a month, my research started well before that. In May, my faculty advisor and I met to discuss my study design, and I filled out an application to be approved by the Institutional Review Board at Cornell. The process was incredibly daunting, especially given that this was the first time I was the principal investigator. After lots of trial and error, I gained a better understanding of the research process and how meticulous research design is. I definitely feel much more equipped going into the research process now with that experience of filling out an IRB application and going through CITI training to conduct ethical research with human participants in an intervention study.
When I arrived in Ithaca and started my study, there were many times where I would continually recognize confounding factors of my study, which felt incredibly defeating. However, after reflecting on how my deep interest in women’s menstrual health led me to decide to conduct my own study. I was able to restore my intentions and come to the understanding that the research process is a cyclic process of learning that often results in protocol improvement.
What does it mean for you to be a Laidlaw Scholar?
My acceptance into the Laidlaw program has served me in so many ways that I would never have imagined. For one, the incredible cohort of scholars has fostered my ability to make long-lasting friendships across various colleges and research interests at Cornell. Secondly, I met other scholars at other schools across the country and the world, which was incredibly insightful and gratifying. Lastly, the sheer amount of resources and support the program has provided me is something that I hope to leverage to pursue my deepest passions, navigate my interests, and craft a career path that will fulfill me in the future.
Which leaders inspire you and why?
The two leaders I can think of off the top of my head are Danae Mercer and Victoria Garrick – two women who exploit the impracticality of many photos in the media. Because of them, I decided to replace the influencers I followed and supported (who I now realize continually perpetuate the unhealthy visage that continues to cause body image issues) with more inclusive people who fully show all parts of themselves. I didn’t realize how large of impact this decision would have on me until a couple months after I switched up my media consumption; merely changing the images that I subconsciously consumed completely shifted my perception of how women are displayed in the media. I feel that Danae Mercer and Victoria Garrick have thoroughly given me the understanding of how carefully crafted social media, magazines, television, and many other media outlets can be.
Briefly describe a scene from the future you are striving to create.
I have to admit that I have rehearsed my condensed life story if I were to be on Wheel of Fortune and Shark Tank, but besides that dream, I hope to one day live in the world where practicality and authenticity is the main focus for every industry in consumerist America – specifically regarding fashion and what is considered in style and out of style, and how fashion companies display ‘sustainable clothing’. I hope that clothing companies realize that the whole concepts of ‘trendiness’ is the root cause of consumerist fashion, and that ‘sustainable fashion’ is not the solution. If anything, presenting their clothing as ‘sustainable’ only perpetuates the idea to the customer that consumerist fashion is still okay; if these clothing companies really were genuine about their commitment to sustainable fashion, they would turn their website into one that resells second-hand clothes.
Armita is a Laidlaw Undergraduate Leadership and Research Scholar at Cornell University. Become a Laidlaw Scholar to conduct a research project of your choice, develop your leadership skills, and join a global community of changemakers from world-leading universities.
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