By Michelle Antony, Peer Research Ambassador
Research can be overwhelming when there is a never-ending list of tasks to complete, it conflicts with your other commitments, and when navigating through dense information that can be difficult to understand. It can also be underwhelming, leaving you feeling bored and unsatisfied if it is not going the way you planned, you are uninterested in the work being done, and you are not given a lot of responsibility. When participating in undergraduate research, it is important to find a healthy medium of being “whelmed” where you feel challenged and productive but not frantic or disappointed. Here are some tips that have helped me stay “whelmed” during my research experiences:
- Find a project you’re interested in: I suggest taking some time to think about what type of research you are interested in engaging in and why you want to get involved. Research is a major commitment, and you want to be passionate about what you are doing. If you are not motivated, you likely will not get the most out of the experience.
- Don’t take on too much and overcommit yourself: There’s always a pressure for students to be involved in a million different extracurriculars and leadership opportunities. However, this mentality spreads students too thin and stops them from being completely dedicated to each activity. Quality over quantity is so important when it comes to extracurriculars. Make sure that schoolwork remains a priority. Depending on the semester and your course load, you may be able to spend more or less time in the lab (in these scenarios keep your PI or mentor updated).
- Stay on top of your schedule: In terms of balancing classes, research, and extracurriculars, make sure to stay organized and create a schedule. Personally, I use Google Calendar, which is a convenient way to see your schedule on a color coded list that can be set to give reminders.
- Update your mentor: Effective communication with your lab mates, mentors, and your PI is necessary for a rewarding research experience. Discussing the roadblocks your project may be experiencing is fruitful as you can bounce ideas off these individuals, and they can give advice. If there’s a topic in your research that you are struggling to comprehend, ask questions. Have an open discussion with your mentor about the possibility of taking on more responsibility if you are looking for more to do in your lab. Have a particularly heavy week with midterms or finals? Let your PI or mentors know and, together, you can find the best way to proceed.
- Take breaks: Prioritize taking care of yourself. I cannot emphasize how important it is to maintain your mental health and avoid burnout by overworking yourself. Taking breaks will leave you energized, increase your focus, and leave you more productive.
Michelle is a senior double majoring in Molecular & Cell Biology and Community Health. Click here to learn more about Michelle.