Peer Research Ambassador Blog

Staying Motivated and Working Independently

By: Emily Regan, OUR Peer Research Ambassador

Staying motivated and working independently is not so difficult when every day brings the excitement of a reading a new story or studying the work of a master. However, I’ve learned that when your work evolves into steady, independent tasks, staying focused becomes more challenging, and even more important.

The exhilaration that came with being awarded a UConn IDEA Grant to write and illustrate a graphic novel was all-encompassing, and fueled the first stage of my independent project. I planned my research trip to Newport, RI, studied what supplies I would need to complete the illustrations, and read endless graphic novels for inspiration. This research was hard work, but also work that allowed me to imagine what my project would be like at its conclusion.

As I got further into my project and the work became increasingly independent and detail oriented, I realized I needed tools to help me stay on task. Here are three strategies that helped me stay focused and motivated.

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Off-Campus Research: My Summer REU

By: Sarah Robbins, OUR Peer Research Ambassador

The research I do at UConn is both fulfilling and exciting, but I highly recommend undergraduates consider participating in outside research opportunities during the summer. Off-campus research experiences can help to expand how you think about the research process and can provide you with an in depth look at graduate school.

I found my summer research experience through the NSF REU program. For those not up on the acronyms, this is a program run by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that provides Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU’s). People familiar with the program typically just refer to these as REU’s. You can find a link to the REU database (and many other databases with off-campus research opportunities!) on the OUR website.

After filling out applications and putting together personal and research statements, I was accepted into the SURF program at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in Jupiter, Florida, which is a non-profit private research institute. I participated in their program in the summer between my junior and senior year.

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How to Design Your Research Question

By: Matthew Lin, OUR Peer Research Ambassador

For centuries, man has attempted to find immortality to no avail. Juan Ponce de Leon couldn’t find its Fountain; alchemists threw together chemicals to manufacture an elixir of life. Yet, in the rocky depths of the ocean there exists a creature that seems to have found the secret to endless life.

No, it’s not an ancient dinosaur nor a mutant monster. Nor is it a small microscopic organism. In fact, it’s the humble lobster.

Lobsters have been known to be what’s called “biologically immortal.” Their rate of mortality and cellular aging appears to be decreased or even stable when compared to its chronological age. Reports have said that older lobsters are even more fertile than younger ones. The oldest reported lobster was 140-years-old.

What’s their secret?

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Troubleshooting the Research Process

By: Marisa Boch, OUR Peer Research AmbassadorTroubleshooting the Research Process Blog Post

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

Full disclosure: the research process can be tedious. Progress may be slow, with setbacks seemingly more frequent than advances. Nevertheless, it is important not to get discouraged and, instead, to look at failure with a critical eye. Be open to what the results suggest. Troubleshoot. Use this failure to pave the way for discovery.

For me, my most notable experience with research setbacks occurred this past summer. I had received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) Award to work full-time on my independent research project, and I had high expectations for the progress I was going to make over the course of those 11 weeks. I wanted to achieve X, Y, and Z, and I had a clear-cut timeline for meeting those goals. In the end, however, I only achieved X (after failing several times over) and half of Y (hence why I am using this experience as an example of “setbacks in research”). Here is my story:
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Getting In Touch: Making Contact with Professors

By: Maya Schlesinger, OUR Peer Research Ambassador

The toughest part of getting involved on campus is often — well — getting involved! This is especially true when it comes to undergraduate research and other creative endeavors, where your involvement hinges on building connections with professors whose work aligns with your interests.

For me, developing these contacts to start my research came in the form of emails and so I’ve had a lot of practice crafting these emails to professors. Your email is often the first thing that this person has to judge you by, and if you are asking them for something, you want to make sure it stands out and is professional. Continue reading