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NIDA's Where Are They Now? Series: Deciding Your Future

Sara Bellum

SBB recently caught up with a few past winners of the NIDA Addiction Science Fair Award to find out what the teens are doing now. Not everyone has followed a science path, but they are all in college pursuing their interests. In this series, the winners offer advice for today’s high school students trying to figure out what to do after graduation.

In 2010, Joey Yagoda of Great Neck, NY, wondered why students cut classes when it seemed like such a risky thing to do. To answer the question, he surveyed classmates and analyzed their responses. His analysis, “Risky Business: What Cognitive Factors Influence Risk Taking in the Academic Setting?” revealed that most students cut class because they believe “everyone else does it.”

Now, as a junior at Yale University, Joey’s taking his experience in behavioral research to the next level. With an interdisciplinary major in Ethics, Policy, and Economics, he’s focusing in on a field called decision science, which tries to answer the question, how can understanding the processes of decision-making, whether it’s by individuals, organizations, or government, become a tool to create better public policy?

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Discovering Lessons for Life

Completing his science fair research project and winning a national award helped Joey discover what he enjoyed doing. “It’s hard to know what you’re interested in [when you’re in high school],” Joey explained. “The experience to meet with NIDA gave me a ton of insight, where I was able to meet with top scientists and help fund my college experience.”

Joey’s studies have led to even greater opportunities, including a summer internship with a company in New York that looks at large-scale economics modeling and an undergraduate fellowship with top researchers in child development. The fellowship gave him the chance to visit with leaders in public policy in Washington, DC, to learn how research affects policy. “Research has meant so much to me,” Joey said. “It gives you a skill set to bring into college and, later, a professional environment.”

His advice to high school students still trying to figure things out: “Explore the global world. Once you get excited about something, follow it. It’s really a cool time to be growing up.”

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