Your Major Doesn’t Define Your Research

Your Major Doesn't Define Your Research. By PRA Maria.By Maria Latta, OUR Peer Research Ambassador

There is a major misconception that students need to conduct research in their major. In reality, you can find projects that you are passionate about and that are relevant to your future goals in a seemingly unrelated field.

Pharmacy Means Lab Work

I majored in pharmacy my entire time as an undergraduate. When I was a freshman, I thought I never wanted to do research because I didn’t want to be stuck in a lab pipetting. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I realized research wasn’t restricted to Western blots and serial dilutions. Through my sociology minor, I took a research methods course where I was introduced to qualitative interviews, survey research, and ethnography. I could instantly see that bridging the gap between new drug therapies and patient experiences through social research sparked my interest. But I had no idea where to start.

Connecting with Professors

My first step into social research was connecting with the professor of my research methods course. During our meeting, my professor offered to teach me social research skills including coding and survey design even though my topic of interest wasn’t her area of research. She also encouraged me to meet with pharmacy professors to get a healthcare perspective. Taking her advice, I was able to connect with a pharmacy faculty whose research interests included a social perspective on pharmacy practice. This is when I knew it was going to be possible.

Faculty Mentorship

When approaching a project, keep an open mind about finding a faculty member to mentor you. Mentors can come from any department or discipline as long as you have already identified what topics you are interested in exploring deeper. It can be very enriching to your research experience to have mentors from different disciplines that broaden your perspective and skill set.

Student-Led Project Opportunities

One avenue for pursuing an interdisciplinary project is through a student-led independent project. Some of the funding opportunities through the Office of Undergraduate Research give you the chance to design your own research project. These projects can be from any department or discipline and can be supported by more than one mentor. This gives you the opportunity to explore your interdisciplinary ideas through a structured experience.

Be Driven by Your Passions. Don’t Be Limited by Your Major

Approaching research from your passions instead of your major is a great way to get started. You never know which professors are studying the topic you are interested in here at UConn and most of the time they are spread across multiple departments. They are often approaching the same subject from different angles and utilizing different methods. For you to find the best avenue for your research, it is important to be open minded to these different methods and be willing to speak with faculty to learn more about their work. This can lead you to a research journey that is different that you thought was possible and ends up being one of the most fulfilling enrichment experiences.

Maria is a senior majoring in Pharmacy Studies and minoring in Molecular and Cell Biology and Sociology. Click here to learn more about Maria.