There are multiple paths to getting involved in undergraduate research. As part of Internship, Research, and Co-op Month, we invited 3 seniors to share with us their journeys to undergraduate research and advice they have for other students who are interested. Check out the recording of the event and some highlights below!
Anusha Gopinath (’22 PNB) got started by applying to UConn’s Health Research Program, a formalized research program in collaboration with UConn Health. Anusha gets to work with mice and human subjects (as opposed to being in a wet lab setting), which she appreciates because she believes the skills she is gaining are more hands on and relevant to her future aspirations to pursue a career in medicine.
Julie Kantner (’22 MCB/Nutritional Sciences) sent an email to a department head, who directed her to a new professor who was just starting out building a research lab. A highlight of this experience was helping build a lab from scratch rather than just jumping into a lab that was already set up. As the first student researcher in her lab, Julie also got to teach others who joined after her, including graduate students, which was a great leadership experience.
Alison Chase (’22 PNB) got started in research when she was young. Her mom is a research scientist and was mentoring another woman in STEM when Alison was in middle school. Alison reached out to her mom’s mentee and built a relationship to the point where the mentee invited her to tour her lab, which sparked Alison’s passion for research. Alison says that getting involved in research so early and being involved with so many different projects over time has taught her the very valuable skill of communicating at different depths, as she has needed to explain her research effectively to a variety of different audiences.
The best advice Anusha, Julie, and Alison have to offer to students interested in undergraduate research includes:
- You do not need to know everything going into a research lab. You do need to be willing to learn and willing to dedicate time towards learning; they’ll teach you the specifics of what you need to know. Also, asking questions does not make you seem inexperienced or unprepared; it shows your interest and critical thinking.
- Getting involved in research can help you figure out your career choices by either confirming or denying your interests. This may include the focus areas of your research project or the skills/daily activities you want to use/do as part of your job.
- Professors want to help you. Research professors may push you out of your comfort zone, but it is for your benefit. They value your time and effort to help them advance their project and your opinion as someone with only a baseline knowledge of their project because they are often presenting or seeking funding from folks who also have a baseline knowledge. Being in a research lab allows you to get to build a very close relationship with a faculty member, which can be helpful when it comes to references or letters of recommendation.
- Being involved in research helps you practice the scientific method and pivoting when something doesn’t go the way you anticipated, both vey useful skills in the real world! These skills can be related to any career, not just research, so even if you don’t want to work in a lab in the future, consider research as a way to gain experience.