By Kira Cuneo, Peer Research Ambassador
One common misconception when it comes to research is that it is only something that students who are interested in attending grad school are eligible to participate in. As someone who will not be going to grad school, I am here to tell you that that is not true.
When I started to consider research as a freshman, I could honestly not tell you what I wanted to do with my life after college. I only knew two things: I wanted to explore my major outside of the classroom and I did not want to spend another summer working as a lifeguard at the lake in my hometown. Getting involved in research the summer between my freshman and sophomore year seemed like a perfect place to start. Although this did not go exactly as planned, (I mean it was 2020… did anything go as planned?) I began working on the Crumbling Foundations project in the fall of my sophomore year and it has been such a positive experience in my undergraduate career.
When I first began research I did have the thought of pursuing a master’s or PhD, but being only 19 years old I was still unsure of what the future held. From the beginning of my research journey, I loved being able to gain hands-on experience and work on different parts of a project that was really interesting to me. I felt that I was learning a lot from the undergraduate, graduate, PhD, and Postdoc peers that I was working with, and I would spend most of my free time between classes in the lab.
As I progressed throughout my classes and had my first internship experience, I realized that I wanted to go into industry after I graduated. However, the thought of stopping research never crossed my mind. It was clear that research was beneficial to me no matter where I decided to take my future. Research was a place for me to pursue my interests within my major while also challenging myself and learning things that I would never be able to learn in the classroom or at an internship.
Since the project I am on has a direct impact on the community, it has been a huge conversation starter for me and something that I have been asked about in both internship and full time job interviews. People have been interested to hear about the work I have been a part of and some of them have even previously heard of the issue. Additionally, when I am asked what I think makes me stand out as a candidate I always speak of how I have had the opportunity to have such a wide range of experiences. Research has been just as influential as the other things I have been involved in and although it may not have a direct relation to the work I will be doing after graduation, I have gained so many transferable skills and have been able to be a part of something that will be a benefit to so many people.
If research is something that you are interested in, I would strongly recommend finding a project that you are passionate about and consider getting involved no matter what path you are on. Research can be such a unique experience, and there are so many amazing projects and opportunities for students at UConn. Research is not a one size fits all experience and it truly is what YOU make of it.
Kira is a senior majoring in Civil Engineering and minoring in Engineering Management. Click here to learn more about Kira.