Kelly Aika Yoshimura

Laidlaw Scholar, Laidlaw
  • People
  • United States of America

I am a/an:

Undergraduate Leadership & Research Scholar


Columbia University

Laidlaw Cohort Year


Research Topic


Area of Expertise

Diversity and Inclusion Humanities Leadership

I am from:

United States of America

I speak:

English Spanish

My hobbies/interests are:

Art Cooking/Baking Film & TV Music Reading Technology Writing/blogging

I am open to participating in mentoring/buddy programmes


Influencer Of

Popular Content


Channels contributed to:

Leadership Social Sciences Scholars' Stories Research

Rooms participated in:

Columbia University

Recent Comments

Jul 02, 2023

"There is no reflection, there is no improvement" is such an incredible quote, I really appreciate the research you're conducting in your project, particularly focusing on a topic as significant as the war on drugs. Accessibility is a key issue in so much academia especially as it pertains to minority groups, and I agree that the first step towards harm reduction, and ultimately reform, begins with accessibility of information. 

Jun 23, 2023
Replying to Aleena Garrison

1. A challenge that I’ve encountered is defining the word diva. Part of my research is finding toys and products from the 2010s that embody or promote diva-ness. This has allowed me to reexamine what being a diva means, and investigate what “type” of diva has been pushed towards certain generations versus others. Initially, this portion of the project was challenging for me because I was only searching for toys, ads, and other media and products for things that explicitly stated diva. There wasn’t much to go off of, so I had to redefine what diva actually meant. In the 2010s, being a diva was about being sassy and chasing fame, which is a stark difference from the definition in the 90s where being a diva meant owning your individuality, being outspoken, and embracing diversity. Using this, I was able to find more products and media that related to diva-ness, but didn’t explicitly state diva in them. Instead, they had many qualities of being a diva, as their products and ads boasted buzz words like “stardom”, “sassy”, and “fashionista”. This has shaped the larger picture of my research because not only am I getting to relive my childhood by examining girlhood in the 21st century, but I am really exploring the deeper meanings behind the shift in the word and nature of divas, and how that has shaped an entire generation of young women. Being a diva has become something negative when it used to be empowering. 

2. I have found Google Scholar to be particularly useful.

I find your research regarding the change in diva as a concept to be very relevant as so many people have a changing perception of healthy girlhood development, even now. There are so many greater factors that combine in order to provide an understanding of this shift, so I'm looking forward to what you find and how the media reacted to these new definitions. 

Jun 23, 2023
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

In my research, there are factors that I hadn't considered as influences in why people do or don't join race/ethnicity-based clubs, specifically political differences within the same group, this has been an interesting point to come up throughout my interviews. There are a lot of institutional and systemic issues that have also limited club participation that impacted students on a more intense level which has geared my focus slightly toward how institutions such as Columbia play an indirect role in promoting inclusivity within student organizations. 

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

Sage research has been a valuable tool as I understand qualitative data gathering as it pertains to conducting ethical interviews and assuring that my questions and responses remain as unbiased and neutral as I can. This has been foundational in my research since it focuses on recognizing various nuances and contextualizing greater communities without drawing broad generalizations.

Jun 23, 2023
Replying to Daniela Palacios

1. My immediate expectations that I have more of my research are that I will be able to provide background information and the relevance of the idea of “emerging adults” as created by the Columbia Justice Lab. I also want to provide examples of the lack of educational access to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals and the nuances in providing prison education. I hope to have a compilation of interview questions that can be used to further understand the experience of emerging adults in prison postsecondary education programs.

2. My research matters because emerging adults are still not a heavily research age group within the incarcerated population. It is important to recognize how incarcerated individuals have long been denied access to education and specifically higher education. Focusing on the college and prison partnerships and the value of education in connection to recidivism and sense of identity is a way to work towards criminal justice reform.

Filling in the gaps in incarceration data is so incredibly important and I appreciate the work you're doing in order to supply the information necessary for supporting young adults and ultimately transforming the criminal justice system through education. 

Jun 23, 2023
  • While all Laidlaw Scholars will be presenting their research at the Columbia Undergraduate Research Symposium in the fall, what are the more immediate expectations that you have for your research? Are you writing a paper? Will your research be part of a larger scientific study? Do you hope to produce an annotated bibliography that you reflect on down the line? Is your research now the first phase of a project you’ll continue to work on throughout the year, and/or next summer? Now that we are nearing the one month mark of the program, please write about your expectations for your research.

My research is a part of a greater analysis of race as a social construct, especially as it pertains to racial identity formation on college campuses. I would like to expand my research into my second summer with Laidlaw with the objective to study the same subject in London and observe how race as a social construct acts differently in two different countries. I expect different identities to form, as well as an emphasis on certain ethnicities over others as the demographics of each country are very different. I do expect the general themes of belonging and internal perception of race/ethnicity to continue to be a common theme in my research.

  • Why does your research matter? Explain the significance of the question you are investigating, and why you are interested in it.

My research matters since college campuses are becoming more and more diverse and the desire for people to join a community that reflects their shared identity becomes more of a priority for students. There is so much nuance in a student's decision to join a club that reflects their identity and providing the research for clubs and organizations to better promote inclusivity within their spaces is very important, and is ultimately my end goal with the project. 

Jun 07, 2023
Replying to Cady Chen

1. My research heavily relies upon animal models. More specifically, it involves introducing brain tumors in mice and studying the resulting changes in protein expression and cell proliferation. It’s important for me to keep in mind that although these mice are critical to making scientific advances and discovering therapies that may be applied to human patients, they too are sentient creatures who can feel pain & suffer. Unlike human experiments, which may only proceed if participants consent to the experiment at hand, mice don’t have the option to consent to the studies being performed on them. As such, it is the researcher’s (my) responsibility to minimize suffering in our mice and treat them with as much care and respect as possible. For example, this could mean following proper anesthetic protocols when doing surgeries, ensuring they are fed and comfortable in their cages, and euthanizing mice who appear to be visibly suffering.

2. Yes! A lot of my research these two weeks have been focused on identifying potential confounding factors & further exploring them to figure out if they are true confounders or if they are unrelated to my results. It is a frustrating, yet necessary process, to consider all possible explanations in attempting to arrive as a scientifically-rigorous and biologically-founded result. In doing so, though, I feel as if I have expanded my own understanding of my research topic and begun to understand the true complexity of biological systems. Any number of external, intrinsic, and situational factors may play a hand at explaining some biological phenomena. Thus, it becomes very difficult (as well as reductive) to attribute a particular phenomena to just one variable.

I didn't realize that there was so much that goes into the process of assuring the most ethical approach to animal experimentation/observation. I appreciate how you mentioned that some surprising confounding factors have been observed, as I've experienced the same thing within my own research. Similarly, I feel like I better understand human behavior and people's development of their self-perception because of these confounding factors. 

Jun 07, 2023
  • What are some of the ethical issues that you are grappling with in your research? What are some of the ways in which you are responding to these questions?

Maintaining anonymity and asking for consent to record are the two main concerns I have. Since my research is based on real-time interviews, obtaining consent to record as well as reassuring participants that they will remain completely anonymous has been challenging. Writing about students' experiences while providing enough context and nuance while also assuring they no identifying information is included can be difficult. In response, I have slightly adjusted in order to include general themes that I've noticed and attempt to recognize these as a collective rather than providing explicit information about one individual. 

  • As you continue your research, have you considered alternative viewpoints in your investigation? If so, how have these alternative viewpoints enriched or changed your project?

Some people aren't as concerned or haven't noticed issues that my research hopes to address which does bring a new perspective and add another reason/common theme to my research, which was unexpected, but welcome. 

Jun 02, 2023
Replying to Ariel Yu

1. I really appreciate the chance to learn about other research topics and various disciplines. Initially, I imagined my research to be more social science focused, but by listening to all the interdisciplinary approaches, I'm now incorporating more scientific methods into my data gathering and analysis. I also find expanding my primary sources from primary interviews to include archives, statistics, and other databases very helpful.

2. As I start working with the research team, I find the research ethics seminar, the lunch talk with librarians, and my graduate mentor's lesson on how to stay on top of my project really beneficial. For example, to be eligible to clean the transcripts, I needed to complete an IRB training, and listening to Dr. Klitzman helped make the process easier and more intuitive. I also used CLIO to get access to a lot of oral history projects, books, and legal documents. I also applied the time-management tips given by my graduate mentor and found my project more organized. 

I appreciate how you mentioned using primary sources and expanding the information you can draw from for your research. I've also taken advantage of CLIO as well as Proquest, and I've found using the sources that are collected from dissertations to be very helpful. This has helped me keep my time and data much more organized.