Vincent Lai & Pho

Vincent Lai

Vincent Lai is a senior at Baker College majoring in Psychology and minoring in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. He works as a research assistant in the Biobehavioral Mechanisms Explaining Disparities (BMED) Lab with close mentorship from Dr. Angie LeRoy and Dr. Christopher Fagundes. For his honors thesis, he is interested in looking at how the fear of missing out (FoMO) affects people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Outside of his research, Vincent is part of the Rice Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) and writes for Rice Catalyst, mentors for RemixCS, and teaches for Breakthrough Houston. When not running to his next class or a meeting, he enjoys spending time with loved ones, going for walks around campus, and dancing.


April 15, 2021


Vincent Lai & Pho


Brendan Wong (00:11): You're listening to bowl of rice. This podcast is brought to you by the office of undergraduate research and inquiry. In a few seconds, you will be hearing from undergraduate students here at rice university, conducting research or any type of creative work. We will also be exploring the Houston food scene. So stick around to find out what students are eating these days. My name is Brendan Wong

Nyla Vela (00:35): And I'm Nyla Vela and we are your hosts. And joining us today, we have a senior psychology major. Welcome Vincent.

Vincent Lai (00:43): Thank you so much for the warm welcome. I'm really excited to be here.

Nyla Vela (00:47): So Vincent, to start us off, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and some of the things that you do on campus?

Vincent Lai (00:53): Once again, I am a senior at Baker. I am currently living on campus in a suite with some other Baker seniors. It's a really great time. I think we're all just really trying to enjoy the time that we have left at rice. Um, despite, you know, the circumstances and what's going on. I think we're, we're doing really well. I am involved with a few organizations on campus. Um, so the big ones, I am the treasurer for the rice Vietnamese student association. Um, I also write for rice catalyst. Uh, that's the undergrad science journal. I contribute to, um, their journal as well as their blog. And then along with that, I'm also involved with a few other organizations like remix CS, which is a club that kind of provides mentorship for high school students in the Houston area. So we talk to them about careers in computer science and tech and more broadly STEM. And then I'm also involved with APSA. That's the American physician scientist association, the rice chapter. And we, um, kind of just help students who are interested in going into medicine specifically as a physician scientist or either one of the two. Um, additionally outside of rice, I currently also teach for breakthrough Houston. It's a nonprofit organization, um, serving underserved students in the Houston community.

Nyla Vela (02:23): Oh wow.

Brendan Wong (02:25): As of today. Um, it's like the last week of instructions for school. How do you feel this your senior year?

Vincent Lai (02:32): Yes, yes, this is my senior year. So just a lot of emotions. I think there's just the relief and the pride that I feel that we were all able to make it this far. Um, and then I suppose also just a little bit of sadness. Like my time here is coming to an end, but it's not over completely. So really again, I'm just trying to make the most out of the time that I have left here. And I'm just really grateful for all the opportunities that I've had still do have as a rice student.

Brendan Wong (03:02): It seems like you definitely do have a lot on your plate. And so one thing that we were going to talk about today is your research experience. So, um, as a senior, um, you definitely have had done research throughout your career at rice. So can you give this a quick overview about your research experience?

Vincent Lai (03:20): Yes, of course. Thinking about my research experiences. I think that I did start a little later, um, in the game, so I wanted to try some something new during this transition period. Um, I did come in to rice as a biochem major and I was pre-med, but somewhere along the line, I just started to really think about why I was here, why I was doing what I was doing. And I ended up switching majors in psychology and deciding that pre-med, wasn't really the thing for me after all, which was totally okay. So I started looking around for some research opportunities because I know I knew that rice is a research institution and so there's lots of opportunities to get involved in research and like, I didn't really quite understand or know what research was. So I was really curious. So I was, I looked around the, um, rice, psychological sciences department website, and that's when I came upon the B med lab, uh, which is where I actually currently work.

Vincent Lai (04:27): Now the B med and B med lab stands for bio behavioral mechanisms explaining disparities. And I think that that name is very descriptive and very telling of the work that we do in the lab. I had always been really interested in the connection between the mind and the body. So specifically how different mental processes like your thoughts and what you're feeling can have really, really tangible consequences for your physical wellbeing. And that's something that I really wanted to get involved in. So, um, I joined the lab and since then I've had the opportunity to work on several projects. And now my primary focus is on my honors thesis, which I'm also doing with the lab.

Brendan Wong (05:13): Wow. That's so nice. So tell us a little bit about your honors thesis.

Vincent Lai (05:18): Yeah, of course. So for my honors thesis, I'm really interested in looking at the fear of missing out or FOMO for short. And so FOMO is like this to describe what FOMO is. It's like this apprehension that you feel when you're not present at rest and rewarding experience that other people are having. So this can range from weddings to birthday parties to vacations, just something that someone's doing that you're not there for. And, um, historically FOMO has been something of a trendy buzzword, um, that people throw around. Um, but previous research has actually found that it's been associated with things like depression and anxiety and even other outcomes like internet addiction. So it's clearly more than just a feeling. And so I got really interested in exploring that for my honors thesis. Um, so specifically I'm interested in looking at FOMO in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vincent Lai (06:19): So specifically I want to know whether it's still a relevant concept and whether it affects people during the pandemic. And if so, how so? Lots of questions there. Um, and so just to break it down, the COVID-19 pandemic has made us all stay inside for longer periods of time, but the truth is that some people aren't staying inside for as long as other people are, and there's different reasons, for example, different places are in different stages of lockdown or reopening. So some people are still going out while others are staying inside. Um, and so that's why, yeah, so that's why I expect that FOMO is still relevant during this time, especially for people who are staying inside more while other people like maybe their friends or their family might be going out and having those rewarding experiences.

Brendan Wong (07:10): Yeah. So this sounds like a super interesting and very relevant topic. I'm wondering what type of population are you studying? Are you studying college students? Are you studying adults? Because we all know adults sometimes can go out too

Vincent Lai (07:27): Right? Yeah. That's a great question. So for my project, I'm specifically looking at, um, groups of people who are particularly at risk for the severe effects of COVID-19, um, such as people over the age of 65, um, as well as people with certain health conditions, um, underlying health conditions that could potentially make them more susceptible to these severe symptoms of COVID-19.

Brendan Wong (07:57): How do you go about doing this research? What are the kind of the methods that you would use to answer your questions?

Vincent Lai (08:05): Yeah, that's a really good question. So for my project, I'm having, um, these participants it's entirely online, so we recruit participants using an online platform. And so what I do is I have these participants fill out a series of questionnaires, which include questions that ask them about different things like, um, their feelings of FOMO before and during the pandemic, um, things like how, how often, or how much their social distancing and any other things they might be feeling like any depressive symptoms that might, they might be going through. So things like that. And then, um, we have, uh, just closed, uh, data collection. So I'm looking forward to actually work with and see what the data show us out of. Vincent.

Nyla Vela (08:56): Um, I was wondering, how did you come up with using FOMO as a part of your, your research? I think that's such an interesting concept. I think it's something that's super popular in like, um, pop culture right now. So like, how did you come to this idea of like, I'm going to study FOMO?

Vincent Lai (09:15): Um, it's a really interesting story. So over the summer I took a class, uh, stress management with, um, Dr. Angela, Roy, who is a, um, postdoc at the lab. And so one day we were just kind of going over some articles that we had for readings. nd it turns out that there's this one article that, um, described the study on FOMO that she worked on. And so we were discussing it and then she, it was like kind of like this, um, offhand remarks. She was like, Oh, it'd be really interesting if, uh, you know, someone might look at FOMO during the COVID-19 pandemic and suddenly this light bulb just went off in my head. Um, after class, I immediately emailed her and needless to say, everything just came together. And then I had this really great idea for my honors thesis that I was super excited about. And, um, she was also running this larger study that I could kind of, um, make my part, my study, a part of. And so everything just fit together really well. And I'm really grateful that I was able to have the opportunity to take that class, um, and come up with that idea and work with her through the whole process,

Brendan Wong (10:28): To the extent that you could tell us what are some things that you anticipate that you'll find

Vincent Lai (10:33): I'm specifically looking for are just different relationships between the things that I described earlier. So I want to see if people who are, um, social distancing and quarantining more, do these people experience depression, um, like more than people who are not social distancing as often. And then also trying to see if FOMO might explain this relationship, right? So, um, there's a lot of research already about how needing to stay inside for long periods of time needing to social distance. These things are not really good for a lot of people's mental health. So I want to see if FOMO can at least partially explain that relationship. And by understanding that maybe we can find ways to help people who are, um, struggling with FOMO leading to these consequences. Like maybe we can help connect them to loved ones or have some way for them to have those rewarding experiences without putting themselves at risk for COVID-19.

Brendan Wong (11:40): I don't know about you too, but I definitely feel like this year has been kind of the year that I've used social media the most, especially I think summer, like earlier this year, it was when tech talk was like gaining so much popularity and all these like tik-tok influencers came about. So I'm curious, um, like this would be also a word I'm curious, like to what extent you've also considered like social media to be part of like exacerbating FOMO. Um, cause I guess I'm just speaking from a more personal perspective.

Vincent Lai (12:19): Um, yes. So, um, historically, uh, FOMO has been studied in the context of social media and this definitely makes sense considering that, you know, on social media platforms, you're able to see into the lives of people or at least the idealized version of their lives that they put up on there. Um, yeah, and just the tap of a button or a tap of a screen, you can see everything that they're doing. So inevitably you're going to be seeing those rewarding moments. You're going to be seeing them at their best when they're on vacation or at a party, and this can really exacerbate those feelings of FOMO. And that is why that it's studied so often in that context. And that is why that I want to apply, um, kind of this idea of FOMO to a context outside of social media. I believe that it's going to be really valuable to see if FOMO does operate outside of social media, um, to kind of just build our understanding of the concept as a whole. And perhaps that can even help us begin to investigate the mechanisms through which FOMO creates those consequences and the people that it impacts.

Nyla Vela (13:30): Yeah, definitely. Especially like this is such an unprecedented event. And so I think your approach with setting FOMO is definitely super interesting and I definitely would love to know more, um, second semester when you put all of your honors thesis together. Yeah,

Vincent Lai (13:47): Absolutely. I'm really excited to see what, what comes out of this.

Brendan Wong (13:53): Yeah. So I know you said you got into research kind of later on game personally, I think there is though by the time to get into your research, um, what were some experiences that like, uh, led up into you writing this honors thesis? Yeah,

Vincent Lai (14:08): So firstly, I definitely agree. It is never too early or too late to start getting into research. I think that is, there's just so many opportunities to learn really valuable skills and be able to connect and network with so many different people. So that's a really good point. Um, it was definitely something that I just felt going in. I started my junior year, but yes, that is definitely so true. Um, and then some experiences that led up to my honors thesis. So, um, I did work in the beam med lab during my junior year, as I mentioned. And I think that that really gave me a good foundation, um, for starting my honors thesis. So, um, I had been involved on the projects I had gotten to know the faculty and some of the grad students in the lab. And so, um, the, when the honors thesis, when the idea for my honors thesis came up, um, I was able to already have those existing connections to help me throughout the study, um, throughout the project.

Vincent Lai (15:09): And, um, this, this has definitely been true as I've gone through the process of completing it. Um, because like for example, my advisor, um, the PI for the lab, the grad students, they've all had a hand in contributing to like every step of the process, really like helping me develop the questions, helping me figure out how I'm going to answer these questions. Um, helping out with like any like problem solving that needs to be done because inevitably there will be some issues when it comes to like collecting data or analyzing the data. And so their input has been really valuable. Um, and so, like I said, everything really just came together having that foundation and then like, they, those things just really helped me take off with my project.

Nyla Vela (15:57): Yeah. I'm always so impressed by people who are still able to pull off in the honors thesis during, especially when you're studying the pandemic. Yeah. It's very, it's kind of, I,

Vincent Lai (16:13): Yeah, I think there's like so many different like projects now looking at the COVID-19 pandemic. So like it's really an unprecedented and difficult time, but at the same time, I think there's lots of opportunities to kind of see how we can help people get through these difficult times. And I think research can do a lot to help with those applications. Right. Yeah.

Nyla Vela (16:34): Um, so Vincent, I have had, um, the pleasure of working with you at the biomed lab for the past two years, which has been great. Um, yeah, surprise, surprise. Um, so I was wondering if you could give us, um, a little bit of insight as to what it was like to work in the lab, um, pre pandemic, um, what you sort of did there and then how has that changed, um, during the pandemic now,

Vincent Lai (16:57): For sure. Um, first off it has been amazing working with you in the lab. I'm so happy that I got to, I got to meet you and work with you. Um, and yeah, so just kind of giving you a day in the life of an RA and the B med lab. So, uh, before the pandemic, we would be physically working in the lab, which is located in the BRC across the campus. Um, and so, you know, every day I would walk over that walk became part of my routine. And so I always looked forward to it because it gave me a little time to, you know, gather my thoughts and get myself in that mindset that, okay, I'm going to go in and do my best. Um, and so once you go into the lab, um, we had a room that was specifically for us research assistants.

Vincent Lai (17:44): And so we have all the tools that we needed in there, like our computers. Um, we even have like a coffee machine, which is really awesome. Um, the coffee at the lab is so much better than the servery coffee. So I always appreciated that, um, while I was working there, uh, and basically we went in and we just kind of checked in to tell the coordinators that yes, we are here. Um, and so the may, the meat of the day was really just making sure that we finished all of the tasks for that day. And these tasks could range anywhere from like working on different steps to recruit new participants to the study, um, running visits with participants who are actually coming in to the lab, um, or like helping set up for these visits. There were so many different things. Um, and so something really important that we had to do was make sure that we were communicating.

Vincent Lai (18:41): So we make the, every so that we can make sure that everything was being finished efficiently. Um, and overall I'd say that we were a really well-oiled machine. And so following the start of the pandemic, I'd say that we continue to be a really well-oiled machine. Just that the major difference was that everything had to be moved online because, um, we, our AEs couldn't quite go into the lab. So a lot of it was conducted online. And so we did try to continue to maintain that connection with, um, the participants that we had for our studies. Like we still sent them surveys, we've made sure to send them emails, um, just kind of making sure we kept that contact. And then, um, I also appreciated how we try to, um, keep in contact with each other. Um, I know that for us RAs, we've got like a little group chat that we made, um, where we sent each other, like, um, just like me memes and like encourage it, like encouraging messages. And I think that was part of, um, what kept me going, um, as the pandemic was going on. Um, and it was always really nice to talk to the other RAs, even though we couldn't physically be there for each other. And that's one of the things that, um, I kinda missed, like being able to sit in the lab room and talking with everyone else and like sharing little things that happened through our day. We couldn't quite do that after the pandemic started, but it was really nice keeping in touch with everyone still.

Brendan Wong (20:10): That's so nice. That's a nice site. Um, your lab, so it keeps, uh, connected with each other on, especially when, again, there's a difficult time and so important to it's like those small moments where you like catch up on how people's days are that really kind of make your life even more exciting sometimes. Um, so yeah, that's great that y'all still keep in touch. So going back to that thesis, 10 of what is your envision timeline for this thesis?

Vincent Lai (20:40): Yeah, that's a really good question. So, um, looking forward now that we have our data, um, we're going to be working on just like cleaning it up and organizing it, makes sure making sure that the data that we have is good and ready to be analyzed. Um, and so I can't really go into very much detail just because a lot of this is like tentative subject to change, but we're going to be analyzing the data, um, seeing what kind of patterns and relationships that we get from that. Um, and then this will all ultimately tie into, um, a paper, a final paper that I'll be writing for the, um, honors thesis project, as well as, um, a presentation in front of the, uh, psych undergrad committee.

Brendan Wong (21:26): What were some of the challenges that you faced? Um, as of right now?

Vincent Lai (21:30): Yeah, so I actually, um, had just finished resolving one of these challenges that I encountered and, uh, yeah. Thank you. Yeah. So, um, so as I mentioned, uh, my honors thesis project is part of a larger study. And so for my project, I'm looking at a smaller set of those participants that were in the larger study. Um, and so at first my advisor and I figured that I would definitely have enough participants for my honors thesis, right. Uh, when I wrote the proposal, I had proposed a certain amount. And so we were pretty sure that I would have it. Um, however, a challenge that we did run into, um, was just how many participants were dropping off or not finished, not finishing the study completely. And so this kind of cut into the numbers that I, that I would have for my honors thesis. And ultimately we found out that I was missing quite a few.

Vincent Lai (22:27): And so some steps I took to resolve that once we identified the problem, we realized that we would need to recruit some more participants for my honors thesis. And so these days that's what I've been doing. Um, just, just trying to recruit participants, using the online platform, making sure that they're completing their questionnaires and following up with people who may have forgotten or just not seeing the emails that we send out to them. And, um, as of today I've gotten like just enough participants to, um, proceed with my honors thesis and there's going to be a few more coming in. That's no problem having more is great. So that's why it's really good news. And I'm really excited now that I've gotten enough participants.

Brendan Wong (23:08): Yay. Congrats. Thank you.

Nyla Vela (23:12): Talking about challenges I'd like to know a little bit, like what was your favorite part of this research?

Vincent Lai (23:18): I can definitely say that my favorite part of, um, just the whole experience of working on my honors thesis has just been, being able to really deepen my relationship to the lab, like the faculty and the grad students before, when I was working as an RA on the other projects, um, I didn't really have much interaction with them compared to what I do now. Like I would talk to them sometimes, but mostly, um, as an RA, I would be mostly w would be interacting with other RAs to complete our tasks or interacting with our participants when we were running visits. So I didn't really have as much opportunity to, you know, talk to the grad students or our PI partially as a product of everything going online, but also in working on my honors thesis, I've really just had the opportunity to attend lab meetings when I wouldn't be attending them otherwise.

Vincent Lai (24:15): Um, because, um, we, in our lab, we have like this weekly meeting where we all get together and we update the group on what we've been doing, um, any concerns or questions that we had. And so that's really allowed me to like interact more with my PI and the faculty and the other grad students in the lab. Um, and so I've gotten to know them on a deeper level I feel, and that's really made me feel like I belong in the lab. And that sense of belongingness has been my favorite thing, just because now I'm like, for example, the other day I was in my positive psychology class and we had two of the grad students from the lab come in as guest speakers. And they actually gave me a shout out, um, for the work that I was doing on the larger study. And I was just like, wow, like, this is awesome. I'm so happy that like, you know, it felt really nice first of all, to be recognized of course, but just showing that, um, I had gone so far in my relationship with the people in the lab that's really made me really happy.

Nyla Vela (25:19): Yeah, definitely. I love that. That's so nice also. Um, yeah, it was super cool that they give you a shout out. I was also in that class, I feel like we're just really connected on so many things today, Vincent.

Vincent Lai (25:31): Yes. Yeah. I remember just like being in class and then hearing that and I was like, wait, did they just say what I think they said? And it was just a lot of like emotions and like, I was just like, wow. Brendan Wong (25:45): Yeah, you guys definitely have a lot of connections that I fear that I'm missing out on.

Nyla Vela (25:54): Okay. Brendan Wong (25:54): So I'm curious, kind of, I think FOMO is such a hot topic right now. I definitely want to hear kind of what your thoughts were outside of a research context as well. Um, but also maybe like with a psychology major lens to this as well, what are some of your hypothesis for what the research will go? What effect do you think this pandemic has had on people's opinions and feelings of FOMO?

Vincent Lai (26:20): Yeah, that's a really, really good question. Um, so kind of building on your point that you brought up earlier. Um, I think that with the pandemic and everyone being inside for longer periods of time, there's definitely that, um, there's definitely that element of people going onto social media. More like a lot of students are at home, for example. And so, um, I know that I find myself just mindlessly scrolling through social media when I'm at home and this can definitely exacerbate those feelings of FOMO. Um, like kind of like how I talked about earlier with like, seeing those, like seeing people, you know, going out and doing things like partying, um, especially during the pandemic it's highly irresponsible, but it can also make you feel like you're missing out on those experiences. Um, and so personally I do think that FOMO is still very much relevant, um, in the pandemic, despite everyone staying inside more, I think that that's a product of just those inconsistent, like reopening and locked down across the country and across the world.

Vincent Lai (27:29): Like some people are going out more than others. Some people have to stay inside because they're at higher risk for the severe, um, effects of COVID-19. So it's a pretty complicated picture. And so looking at how FOMO plays into that, I'm building off of previous research. So, um, researchers have looked at FOMO and how it relates to other outcomes. And so there's evidence that there might be a relationship between, you know, people's feelings of FOMO and like depression down the line. So I'm using, I'm kind of building off of that and seeing how that works in the pandemic if it's still relevant in the pandemic. And so if so, like if people are indeed experiencing depression from staying inside and FOMO is part of that, then how can we reduce those feelings of FOMO to ultimately reduce those feelings of depression? So just lots of relationships there and I'm kind of working to, you know, identify them and see how we can use this knowledge that we get to help people during the Panda, Nyla Vela (28:32): Going back to, um, you mentioned that you're studying an older population and also populations that are more at risk for COVID 19. Um, do you think that there's a difference between the way that like they experienced FOMO as compared to maybe like us college students?

Vincent Lai (28:49): Yeah, absolutely. And it was definitely something that I considered when I was thinking of the idea for this honors thesis project. And so, um, there's Def there definitely might be a difference because perhaps, um, college students and other teenagers might use social media more than people who are, you know, older. Um, and so that's part, that's part of the reason why I did want to study formo outside of the context of social media, because, you know, some people may use social media and other people may not. And so just seeing that, um, because, um, a question on the questionnaire that we asked was about their social media usage. So perhaps we can, you know, compare people who use social media more and then compare people who use social media and see like how much FOMO they're experiencing, um, as well as, you know, those other variables, like social distancing and depression. And so being able to control like how much social media that they're using has been pretty valuable. And I think that it will help us see like whether social media has a role or not, perhaps.

Brendan Wong (30:02): Yeah. I was super fascinated that you're studying kind of an older population. Like Nyla mentions just now, when I mentioned it earlier, I think your response to the question about like social media and stuff definitely kind of broadened my own understanding that like, you know, FOMO does exist outside of a social media context as well. And that immediately got me thinking about the upcoming Thanksgiving. Right, exactly. Cause I know that's like a hot topic right now, right? Whether or not you see your friends, whether or not you should go to your family's gathering, um, get tested before, does that even work? What do you think is a good message to really get everybody to choose the best method for the community?

Vincent Lai (30:47): Yeah. That's a really good question. I think that's so relevant. You're right. That's upcoming Thanksgiving season and then even Christmas going down the line a little bit. Yeah. Yeah. So that's a really good point about social media or about FOMO existing outside of social media, right? Like you might have, for example, someone who doesn't use social media, but they hear about like, um, uh, like a Thanksgiving gathering that their family members went to, but they didn't go to perhaps because, you know, they decided to stay home to protect themselves and other people. So that kind of situation can also bring about feelings of like missing out that don't really relate to social media. Right? So those feelings are definitely going to be a factor in this. And um, as for like, what's the best thing to do during Thanksgiving? I feel like that's a very complicated question just because inevitably there's going to be gatherings.

Vincent Lai (31:47): Like every Thanksgiving families are going to be getting together. And so that's most likely not going to change. And, um, I do know that a lot of agencies and organizations are aware of this. And so there has been recommendations for what to do. If you get into a gathering like wearing masks, still staying that six feet apart, um, not unmasking unless you need to eat. And so I think that those recommendations do, um, provide some room for families to be able to come together still and still have that special Thanksgiving celebration. Uh, but that, with that being said, however, I also do believe that the stay at home and like keeping herself away from those who aren't in your household is going to be the gold standard. Right. You'd have that bubble. And so if you're staying with your household, you're much less likely to have to come into contact with potentially someone who might've gotten like sick from someone else. Um, so it's a very complicated question. I think that just different things work for different people. Um, and that's why there are those recommendations. So as long as people are following those recommendations, um, we can definitely stay a little optimistic about this coming season.

Brendan Wong (33:10): It's definitely challenging, but also very necessary. I also just, yeah, like when you're talking about FOMO, I definitely recall just like at the beginning, when everybody after like when a good amount of people were staying at home, just felt like they really had to go to a restaurant afterwards. Cause they just like really miss getting served, I guess. Um, or just like the restaurant experience, which, um, I was really lucky that like, I just stayed with my family and we cook together, but I definitely understand for people with that, that's not the situation that they're in. Um, and so that's why there's also like the, the wants to go to, um, uh, a restaurant as well.

Vincent Lai (33:56): Right. Um, and I think there's also so much that we realized that we took for granted before the pandemic happened. And I know that, um, I really miss just being able to hang out at my friend's house after school, um, or, you know, like, um, like playing sports with my friends. Like I can't really do those things because those things are gonna require me to get into close contact with them and that's not safe. So just with the pandemic starting, I realized that there are things we took for granted. And that also makes me appreciate the things that we do have now a little more.

Brendan Wong (34:32): Yeah. You definitely talked about this already, but it's really like the small, like conversations that kind of humanize a lot more of these conversations. Um, cause, well, at least for me now it's like, um, I have to schedule a time when I have to call somebody and then conversations usually like hit that one hour Mark. And we were like, okay, I don't want to take too much of your down for sure. Yeah. uh, I've definitely heard of people who just like, um, turn on their zoo and then they just like work together. Not necessarily talk, but they're just like which I thought that was really interesting. Definitely a different way of, um, keeping connected that I didn't think about. But yeah, so definitely super it's, it's definitely a super trying time where a lot of these innovative ways are also coming about as well.

Nyla Vela (35:34): Jumping back to talking about, um, a bit, um, I know one of the things that I like the best is that we get to, um, sort of engage with community members. And, um, so I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about that. Um, maybe share, um, a story or two, um, what, uh, what's it like engaging with, with different community members while also doing this research?

Vincent Lai (35:58): Yeah, that's a super good point. And that's also one of the things that I love about working at the B med lab. Um, so, uh, one of the things that we do is that we are really, really involved in the community. We reach out to community members and we work really closely with them as they progress through the studies that they're part of. Um, and so for me, I always felt that, um, um, in working with these participants that they, they come in with their own experiences and unique backgrounds. And like, I always feel that they're like, we, the way that we work with them, like they're more than just data points for a publication. Um, I love that I'm able to, um, talk to them and just get to know them and vice versa. Like they're, they come in. They're very excited to be, um, taking part in this study to help other people who are in their situation.

Vincent Lai (36:56): And they also love getting to know us. Um, thinking, trying to think of a specific story is just really, really hard because there's so many great people who come in and what I remember the most are the people who, um, just ask us about, you know, different things, like what are we studying? Uh, what do we like to do in our free time? And then we also get to learn those things about the, um, like for example, there was a, there was this really nice lady who came in and she spent a lot of time just telling us about her family about, um, like what her sons do for a living and how like on weekends she gets together with her friends and they have like these, um, parties where they get together and just hang out and Drake. So just getting to really see beyond like the data and seeing that these, there are indeed very, um, unique and vibrant people, um, who like come in and contribute their time and efforts. So it makes me feel a lot of different things. I feel really grateful to have this opportunity. Um, I feel like really thankful and like, um, that I'm able to work with these people and ultimately help others who are in their situation as well.

Nyla Vela (38:15): Yeah, definitely. Um, I can totally attest to how fulfilling it is to be able to just talk to people. Um, it definitely feels like you're getting more out of it than just data. You're kind of understanding people's stories and that's just such a cool thing. I love that, that you're so passionate about it. It sounds like you really, really care about research and that's so cool. Um, so I was wondering, um, you're a senior, this is your last year here at rice. Um, you were going to wrap up your honors thesis next semester. So, um, what are what's what's in line for Vincent after that? Um, what is, what does the future look like for you? Vincent Lai (38:54): Yeah, thanks so much for asking. So, um, as I felt like I did start a little later, um, after graduation, I'm thinking of taking a gap year as for what I'll do during this gap year, I will likely continue to be involved in research, just giving myself a little more time to gain some more experience as well as really explore like the different fields there are in psychology. Um, like psychology is one thing, but like even within psychology, there's like social psychology, health, psychology, positive psychology, there's so many different things. So I just want to let myself have that extra time to explore those things and determine what do I want to go into. Um, and then looking even farther out, I would like to go to grad school for psychology. I really think that research is what I want to do. Um, but at the same time, I also feel like I'm very open-minded and so I would like to pursue a PhD and I, and I know that like with a PhD, there's going to be lots of different opportunities. And so that's something I'm looking forward to moving into the future.

Brendan Wong (39:59): Yay. That's so exciting. Um, definitely short term wise. I'm so interested in seeing where your honors thesis go, but we're both rooting for you.

Vincent Lai (40:09): Thank you so much.

Brendan Wong (40:11): Yeah. So from FOMO to, um, your experiences working in the beam that lot, we definitely covered so much ground. Um, so as you know, this podcast is called bowl of rice and in line with the food theme, we have a curve ball question for you, drum roll, please. that was really bad for drum roll.

Nyla Vela (40:36): Can you tell us, um, what your favorite meal that you've gotten in Houston, Texas has been and where is it from?

Vincent Lai (40:45): Oh, that's such a hard question. There's so much good food in Houston, so I'm not going to cheat and say my mom's cooking because I do live in Houston, but you know, so, um, I'd have to say that. I think the best thing I've gotten is, um, far, which is Vietnamese noodle soup. Um, and so in Houston, like there's lots and lots of fun restaurants, so something I love to do and, you know, just go around and explore and try each different thing to see, um, how they're different, how good they are. Uh, my favorite one around rice is fuss. I go on, it's very close. They have a really, really good food for good price. And there's also a bunch of other Vietnamese dishes they offer to Vietnamese food is something I have a soft spot for it, so I could talk all day about it. But yes, I'm going to say that far from far restaurant is the best thing that I've had.

Brendan Wong (41:40): Oh my gosh. That sounds so good. I love Pho Saigon. Vincent Lai (41:44): Oh yes. It's so good.

Brendan Wong (41:47): Yeah. Honestly, we talked about fear of missing out so much today that I'm like, I'm really missing out on all the great Vietnamese food in Houston.

Vincent Lai (41:56): No, I feel that, like, I remember going to fuss, I gone like a lot in the past year is just whenever I felt like homesick or I was missing my mom's book. Cause she, she makes such good fall. But you know, if I Pho Saigon scratches that itch. Yeah.

Brendan Wong (42:09): Yay. We've definitely covered so many topics today and um, we're ending on a very delicious note. So, um, we just want to thank you so much for coming onto the podcast to tell us about your research. And we're super excited to hear where this goes next,

Vincent Lai (42:27): Guys. Thank y ou so much. It's been a great pleasure. Thank you for having me, you and with diet. We'll see you next

Brendan Wong (42:40): Once again. Thank you for listening. If you're interested in being on this podcast, feel free to reach out to That is BW