My First Research Experience: Being Open to the Unexpected

My First Research Experience: Being Open to the Unexpected. By PRA Claire.By Claire Fresher, Peer Research Ambassador

Many things surprised me when I started my first research opportunity. I didn’t know what to expect. I had heard a few things from upperclassmen about their own experiences and had attended a couple presentations from OUR, which is what got me interested in research in the first place, but I had no idea what my personal research experience was going to be like.

Something I hadn’t expected was how many people there are in a research group to support you and how willing people are to help. When I started my research position, I was introduced to a graduate student that worked in the lab station right next to mine. She showed me around the lab space and set me up on my computer. She was always there to ask quick questions or help me with any problems I encountered, as were the other people using the lab space, even if they weren’t in my specific lab group.

After a few weeks, I was given a partner who was also an undergraduate and I was introduced to the other undergraduates in the lab who I met at our weekly lab meetings where I got to hear what everyone was working on. I personally loved having a partner who could help me on the specific project I was assigned since I didn’t want to interrupt the other people in the lab with every question I had when they had other similar projects they were working on.

There was definitely a learning curve when I first started since I had never seen anything like this before. I started with basic literature research and began getting a better look into the broad topic which made it easier to really dive into the specific project that I was working on. In the beginning the work seemed a little intimidating but once I got comfortable in the lab space and knew I had people that could help me it was a lot easier to really get going and get into the really interesting parts, which is actually discovering new and exciting things!

I think the most important thing that I went into research with was being open to anything, and not being set on one way of learning or doing things. This was beneficial since it allowed me to be able to learn something completely new and be open to doing things differently than I had done before.

Throughout the course of my research experience, I know that I have changed in many ways. I learned how to work independently, how to be more analytical in my work, and how to ask the important questions that led to new discoveries. Research really has taught me to be open to the unexpected, and even welcome it, since being open has made me into a better researcher and student.

Claire is a junior majoring in Mechanical Engineering and minoring in Mathematics. Click here to learn more about Claire.