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Taylor A. Burke
Spotlight on a Researcher
Taylor A. Burke, PhD in Clinical Psychology, she/her
Harvard Medical School / Massachusetts General Hospital
Dr. Taylor A. Burke is a clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School. The primary aim of her research is to improve the prediction and prevention of self-injurious thoughts and behaviors (SITBs) among adolescents and young adults. Dr. Burke uses novel methodologies and computational approaches to improve the identification of individuals at risk to better intervene and prevent SITBs.
Dr. Burke earned her BA in psychology at Duke University and her PhD in clinical psychology at Temple University. She subsequently completed a pre-doctoral clinical psychology internship and an NIMH-funded T32 post-doctoral fellowship in child mental health at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Dr. Burke holds a five-year NIMH career development award that focuses on using passive mobile sensing, adolescent sleep and physical activity assessment, and advanced computational approaches to idiographic modeling to develop proximal risk models for increases in suicidal ideation.
She also has ongoing research supported by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the NIMH focused on leveraging computer vision to enhance suicide risk screening in pediatric health care settings.
What tips can you offer to colleagues trying to start a research lab or begin a career in research?
To establish a research lab or build a rewarding career in research, finding your passion is crucial, but persistence is at least half the battle. It is definitely easier said than done to expect setbacks, but I really think it is one of the main keys to success in this field. Perhaps just as important is cultivating and maintaining relationships with supportive mentors, mentees, and peers.
I am incredibly lucky to continue to benefit personally and professionally from having had access to such wise and kind mentors. Some of my closest research collaborators have become even closer friends over the years, and their support has helped me to maintain my passion for the field.
What drew you to your particular area of research?
I was initially drawn to studying the prediction and prevention of self-injurious thoughts and behaviors due to the urgent public health crisis of rising suicide rates among youth and my desire to contribute to an area in dire need of advancement. Working as a post-bacc research assistant at Brown University on a treatment study for youth who had attempted suicide highlighted the need for improved precision in suicide risk assessment.
The opportunity to utilize innovative methodologies and computational approaches to improve suicide risk assessment on a broad scale has made this research area even more compelling to me over time.
What is an example of a set-back you’ve experienced in your work, and how did you handle it?
One example that comes to mind is my first National Institute of Mental Health PI grant submission, a high-risk/high-reward R21 proposal. My mentors cautioned me that R21s were highly competitive and that, as a junior researcher (an intern at the time of first submission), I might struggle to secure the grant. Despite this, I felt so enthusiastic about addressing the research gap I identified with the methods I had proposed that I admittedly maintained high expectations.
When my first submission wasn’t discussed, I felt incredibly disheartened, but my mentors inspired me to persevere. When I learned my grant was not discussed on my second submission, it stung, but I already felt more resilient, having gone through the rejection and resubmission process just once before. On the third submission, the grant was funded, and it felt so immensely gratifying. This experience drove home the value of perseverance and resilience in academia.
Why did you join ABCT? How does your ABCT membership inform your research?
Initially, I joined ABCT to attend its annual convention with the goal of presenting my research and networking with fellow researchers from different institutions. Over the years, I’ve remained a member because the convention provides an excellent platform to exchange research ideas with professionals at all career levels who study a diverse range of clinical phenomena.
I feel grateful that ABCT’s convention has become a sort of annual reunion for me, where I can reconnect with colleagues from grad school, internship, postdoc, and beyond. Being a member enriches my research by exposing me to fresh ideas, methodologies, and computational innovations and by facilitating networking, which has spurred some really fun and gratifying collaborations.