Consortium Spotlight: Taylor Little

It’s not unusual for students in the hard sciences to spend a lot of time in the lab, but Chemical Engineering major Taylor Little gets to work out “in the field” in ways many undergraduate students in her field don’t—as part of a community-based social justice research project.

Taylor, who is also an MLK scholar, worked with Dr. Daniela Terson de Paleville on the Minds In Motion project, which assesses how a physical fitness program during school hours may affect academic, physical, and social development in students at Hawthorne Elementary. Taylor assisted with pre- and post- testing with the students, recording/analyzing data, presenting the research at academic conferences, and expanding the project to an Indianapolis middle school, among other projects.

It’s not exactly the same kind of work as her major, but Taylor values the opportunity to work with more people and on a social justice issue—access to quality physical education—that matters to her.

“It’s nice to have more interactive research than just sitting in the lab and staring at stuff,” she observed. “I also think it made me more aware of issues with technology and how kids’ childhoods are changing [… and] the value of more traditional play.”

Taylor noted that working on this project has helped her develop more diverse academic and professional skills, such as presentation skills and thinking about how academic research can benefit the community.

“A huge part of engineering is thinking about how it affects other people, economics, and broader stuff like that,” she said. In the Minds and Motion project, researchers were concerned with “more than the main point of the project itself. How can it be replicated? How is it going to affect other populations?”

The Minds in Motion project is just one of the ways Taylor stays active in social justice concerns. As the former environmental ownership chair and current global impact chair of her sorority (Alpha Kappa Alpha), she has led projects such as an event turning t-shirts into resusable grocery bags, a vegan dinner to talk about sustainable food consumption, and a Soles for Souls campaign turning old shoes into water that can be transported to water-deprived communities.

Taylor will soon begin a co-op with LG&E, working in plant operations and gas storage, but noted that as she continues developing herself for a career in chemical engineering, she will carry her experiences on the Minds in Motion Project with her.

“It reassured me that I like doing research outside of my own major and outside of a lab,” Taylor said.

Get updates about the cool work Consortium students are doing on our website (Louisville.edu/socialjustice) or by following us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (@ulsocialjustice).

Education: Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering

Hometown: Originally from Pittsburgh, but grew up in Louisville

Years at UofL: Finishing up her Junior year

Research Interests: sustainability and the environment, agriculture and horticulture, sustainable wine-making practices, physical education

What movie or book should everyone doing social justice work know about? Animal Farm—Reading about how power is so easily manipulated is something everyone needs to think about.

What motivates you to do this work? I already had experience working with kids. I was raised to believe that education is so important. It’s such a cool thing that with Minds in Motion, you can literally throw tape on the ground [and improves educational outcomes]. The fact that you can translate these small physical motions—that they are having a ball doing—into being able to read better […] is super cool.