Oct. 16, 2023

How a summer research project helped an undergrad heal

Student-researcher Nick Basilio uses PURE award to create autoethnography on his experience as a queer, racialized runner
Nick Basilio leans against a wall near the running track in the Jack Simpson Gym.
Kinesiology student Nick Basilio hopes his story will have an impact on others. Elyse Bouvier

Research comes in many forms and one of the most surprising can be the personal growth it brings. For Nick Basilio, a second-year kinesiology student who was awarded funds through the Program for Undergraduate Research (PURE) at UCalgary, the research was not only personal — it was also therapeutic.

“I never expected to heal from this experience. I thought research didn't go beyond academics and I didn’t know it could interact with and change things in your personal life,” Basilio says.

Basilio’s research project centred on his experiences as a queer, racialized athlete growing up in a small town in Saskatchewan. Through reflections on his own experience and looking at current gaps in literature, Basilio discovered there’s a long way to go in exploring the intersections of sexuality and race in sport.

“My purpose was to change the lives of other queer racialized athletes’ lives, but what surprised me was that the academic validation and self-validation was nothing compared to the healing in the end.”

Mostly, he’s proud of telling his story.

“Some of the stories I wrote about have defined who I am today. I’m literally taking a part of my life and putting it out to the world that nobody knows. So, it’s scary. But when I think about the reward, from that risk, it’s the impact that my story or the impact I wish my story will have on other people that I’m proud of.” 

Mentoring undergraduate researchers

Basilio worked with Dr. Willian Bridel, PhD, associate dean (academic) and an associate professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology.

“I’m always so humbled when undergrad students come and ask me if I’d be interested in supervising them because they put such trust in me as a supervisor. And because of the highly personal nature of Nick’s work, to have him approach me and ask if I would support him through the process is really meaningful,” Bridel says.

Bridel, who has previous experience supervising undergraduate researchers, says that he always learns from, and is inspired by, the students he works with.

“Asking Nick to really dig into his own experiences and knowing, having done that kind of work myself, how difficult that can be, it’s inspiring me to be the best mentor I could possibly be for him through the process,” Bridel says.

Nick Basilio runs on the track in the Jack Simpson Gym.

Basilio has found healing by doing an autoethnography project on his experiences as an athlete. He's started running again, for himself.

Elyse Bouvier

Research experience

For Basilio, being able to participate in PURE taught him much about the nature of research.

“I learned that research requires a lot of patience and that it’s not always binary, it’s not necessarily easy or hard,” he says.

“With research, you honestly have to go into it without certain expectations because it’s always changing and, in my experience, that’s a good thing.”

And, in the end, Basilio says that the personal growth he experienced was the most validating part of the program.

“It’s not easy. There were times when I felt my story wasn’t valid. I had imposter syndrome most of the summer but as long as you remember what your purpose was for the research and why you’re doing it in the first place, that’s what shows your research.”

The PURE program awards up to $7,500 for undergraduate students in all disciplines to embark on an eight-, 12- or 16-week summer research project with a supervisor in an area of their interest. The program is an exceptional undergraduate research experience, with many participating students going on to further research in their careers. Nick Basilio is one of 114 undergraduate students who were awarded a summer studentship with PURE and one of approximately 350 undergraduate students who worked as researchers at the university in the summer of 2023.

Applications for 2024 undergraduate summer studentships in research, including PURE, open in early December.

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