Author: Berkey, Melissa

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

By Stephanie Schofield, Peer Research Ambassador

Student Research Blog. Slow and Steady Wins the Race! By PRA Stephanie.As a child, I grew up listening to the story of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” in which a stealthy Hare mocks a Tortoise for thinking they could beat the Hare in a race. Yet, the Hare becomes so burnt out that he falls asleep mid-race, and the Tortoise ultimately wins.

We are all greedy for experiences, one way or another, our “race” being what dreams we hold for after completing our degrees. Some of us, stressing over the 7% acceptance rates of medical, dental, or genetic counseling programs, feel an anxious drive to pile on as many extracurriculars as we can. If you’re anything like me, you sometimes have compulsive desires to take on extra commitments that will make you more “competitive” to jobs or graduate schools. Some of us are so nervous about not getting into our dream job or graduate school that we frantically join every relevant club, research project, or job that we can to beat the increasing competitiveness of the post-college world. Continue reading

Don’t Restrict Yourself to a Traditional Path: Honor Your Passions

By Alexandra Goldhamer, Peer Research Ambassador

Student Research Blog. Don't Restrict Yourself to a Traditional Path: Honor Your Passions. By PRA Alexandra.For pre-medical and pre-professional students there is pressure to pursue a predefined path and check certain boxes to appear as the ideal candidate. Following these presumed requirements with a lack of passion will not facilitate an environment that is conducive to a college experience that allows for exploration of your interests and the sculpture of your unique, creative path.

While I became involved in research because I was truly interested, I did enter college with the notion that getting involved in undergraduate research was something that I was “supposed” to do to be a competitive applicant for post-graduate opportunities. I became involved in research in the Physiology and Neurobiology (PNB) Department where I study the neural underpinnings of obesity and anxiety. While I enjoy my research in molecular neurobiology, I felt as though I had additional passions that remained unexplored. Continue reading

Balance and Burnout

By Alex Clonan, Peer Research Ambassador

Student Research Blog. Balance and Burnout. By PRA Alex.Getting started in undergraduate research can be an overwhelming (but exciting!) process. You are learning how to answer scientific questions, meeting new people, and gaining background knowledge on an entirely new field!

While all of these are exciting ventures, it’s important to remember that you are still a student, and you have to take care of yourself.

During my time as an undergraduate researcher, I have found that one of the biggest challenges in getting acclimated is time management and burnout. I struggled with it over my years in research, and have known many peers who have as well.

However, it’s important to realize that research can take different forms and time management has a learning curve. Continue reading

Five Tips to Stay Whelmed in Undergraduate Research

By Michelle Antony, Peer Research Ambassador

Student Research Blog. Five Tips to Stay Whelmed in Undergraduate Research. By PRA Michelle.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: Continue reading

Beyond the Microscope: Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities

By Anabelle Bergstrom, Peer Research Ambassador

Student Research Blog. Beyond the Microscope: Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities. By PRA Anabelle.Research is often advertised as being an aspect of the college experience that is geared towards STEM majors. You spend hours in a lab, dissecting animals, and writing detailed mathematical reports on your findings. You suit up in your lab coat, safety goggles, and closed-toes shoes to look at different molecules under a microscope. Did you know there is another world in research, one world that exists in your dorm room, or at your state’s legislative building, or through conversations with your peers?

Many students are surprised to know that social sciences and humanities majors can participate in research just like their STEM peers. These opportunities may not be as visible as those pertaining to biology, but I can tell you from experience they do exist. You just have to know where to look. Continue reading

Learning to Pivot from Setbacks in Research

By Paul Isaac, Peer Research Ambassador

Student Research Blog - Learning to Pivot from Setbacks in Research. By PRA Paul.Most research articles that you’ll read in Nature or Science will come across as immaculately performed. The data will look amazing, every test and statistical analysis appears carefully orchestrated to elucidate a meaningful result. However, what doesn’t come across is the extensive string of trial and error involved with actually completing these projects and fleshing out the research questions they aim to answer.

Mistakes, setbacks, and failures are natural parts of life and are just as naturally occurring in the lab. As you begin to get involved with research, you’ll inevitable hit your first roadblocks: accidentally pipetting the wrong reagent and messing up an assay, getting results that are the exact opposite of what you were expecting, and the dreaded experience of performing statistical analysis only to be met by non-significant results. During these moments, it’s easy to feel like you’re not “good enough” for research, that your hypotheses were fundamentally wrong, or that your research has hit a dead end. But, just like Rocky said, “It’s not about how hard you can hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” If anything, good researchers aren’t defined by how good they are at getting their questions and results “right” the first time, but how well they can correct, pivot, and investigate their mistakes.

While the Rocky quote might help with your mood, what can you do when you experience setbacks in research? While I can’t provide you with an exhaustive list, I can provide you with some approaches that have worked for me throughout my research journey. Continue reading

Becoming a Better Researcher by Stepping Outside Your Research

By Erik Choi, Peer Research Ambassador

Student Research Blog - Becoming a Better Researcher by Stepping Outside Your ResearchAs with many things, the key to becoming a better researcher is practice. Reading more peer-reviewed publications, repeatedly attempting a difficult technique in the lab, scouring through Stack Exchange; these are all effective ways to hone your skills, but it can feel repetitive at times. Constantly being surrounded by the same area of research can feel exhausting and mundane.

One of the best ways to become a better researcher is to pause your own work and hear from other researchers. Learning from other researchers provides a valuable opportunity to learn about relevant topics and techniques from experts in their field. Research in fields of study adjacent to or outside of your field of study has the added benefit of contextualizing your work, showing how your research is interconnected with other areas of research.

For students who are looking for research opportunities, this can be a fantastic foray into research. Presentations and events often gather faculty and graduate students with a variety of research interests and provide a conducive environment for networking. Continue reading

Meet the PRAs – Stephanie Schofield

Meet Stephanie Schofield ’23, an OUR Peer Research Ambassador (PRA) majoring in Molecular & Cell Biology and minoring in Psychological Sciences.

Meet the Peer Research Ambassadors - Stephanie Schofield '23.What is the focus of your research?

My research focuses on combating the global problem of antibiotic treatment failure. Roughly 35,000 people die per year in the United States alone from bacterial infections that are unresponsive to antibiotics, stressing the need for more effective treatment methods. Specifically, I am currently investigating genetic bacterial stress mechanisms and determining how each of these stress-response genes plays a role in treatment. With this information, I am working to find better ways to potentiate bacteria towards succumbing to antibiotics faster by manipulating their genetic mechanisms and finding substances that can inhibit vital machinery they need to evade treatment.

Why did you get involved in research?

I’ve always been super passionate about my education, and I craved for more than just diagrams in a textbook! My fascination with the “molecular world” of life began from a young age and I always yearned to learn more about the mechanisms of cells through hands-on experiences. I feel that in order to make the most of my education, I needed to understand the real-life implications of what I studied in my classes. Research was the best and most motivating way to do this! I saw it as an immense opportunity to grow and narrow down what I wanted to pursue as a career. So far, it has done all of this and more for me! Continue reading

Meet the PRAs – Jerome Jacobs

Meet Jerome Jacobs ’23, an OUR Peer Research Ambassador (PRA) majoring in Allied Health Sciences, with a concentration in public health and health promotion, and minoring in Global Studies.

Meet the OUR Peer Research Ambassadors - Jerome Jacobs '23.What is the focus of your research?

My research is a mobile-based HIV prevention project in Malaysia. I have helped develop research-informed HIV prevention content and evaluated various features of the mobile app, which helped me realize that HIV stigma is one of the most persevering barriers to effective HIV/AIDS services in Malaysia.

Why did you get involved in research?

Interestingly, before acquiring my research assistantship, I had never done any research in m-health, stigma, or HIV and other STIs. However, since immersing myself in this position, I have grown passionate about it and am pursuing it for the UConn IDEA Grant and my Honors Thesis project. Continue reading

Presenting Your Research at a Conference

By Elisa Shaholli, Peer Research Ambassador

Student Research Blog - "Presenting Your Research at a Conference" by PRA Elisa.An integral part of the research process comes near the end: presenting and sharing your work with various audiences. The sharing process is the culmination of the time spent, words written and edited, and knowledge acquired throughout the duration of your research project and can be a very rewarding experience. It can also be one of the more anxiety-inducing aspects of research, especially if it may be one of the first times you are sharing your work with others. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing my experience presenting at my first conference in Ireland this summer, and tips that I found were helpful in doing so! Continue reading