Student Research Blog

Graduating PRA Spotlight: Lucie Lopez ’24

Peer Research Ambassador Graduate Reflections -Lucie Lopez.Lucie Lopez ’24
Majors: Psychological Sciences and Spanish
2023-24 OUR Peer Research Ambassador

Research Journey

When I first got to UConn, I was not confident in my ability to succeed. However, after three years as an undergraduate, I can confidently say I believe in myself. One reason for this change is my experience in undergraduate research. As a first-year student, I barely knew what research was, which made the experience of getting started very intimidating. Nonetheless, I felt pressure to get involved with research, especially since I was potentially interested in graduate school. So, I took a leap of faith during my first semester and reached out to a faculty member. That led me to the first stop on my research journey as an undergraduate research assistant with Dr. Rhiannon Smith in the Social Emotional Development Lab. My next stop led me to participate in the Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts Research Experience (SHARE) program as an apprentice and work with Dr. Peter Chen in the Department of Geography. Lastly, I wanted to combine these fields into a project of my own, which led me to the UConn IDEA Grant program.

Along those different stops, my confidence slowly began to grow. However, when I was chosen as a UConn IDEA Grant Recipient, I experienced a lot of imposter syndrome (former PRA Mahima has a great blog post on imposter syndrome! — There’s no timeline for imposter syndrome, but it took me a couple of months to overcome it, and I feel confident that I had a good project and could complete it. This was difficult to work through, but it ultimately helped increase my confidence exponentially. This experience, combined with my academic success and leadership experiences in other organizations, led to me walking across the stage with my head held high and a newfound confidence in my ability to succeed and do great things.

Next Steps

I’m so excited to return to UConn in the fall as a Ph.D. student in the School Psychology program studying with Dr. Sandra Chafouleas! All of my research experiences, from being a research assistant in the Social Emotional Development Lab to being a SHARE apprentice to completing my own UConn IDEA Grant project, have led me to this next step in my research journey. These experiences have given me skills and practice that will be invaluable as a graduate student. I could not be more grateful to Dr. Smith, Dr. Chen, Melissa, and all of the fantastic staff at OUR for their knowledge and advice!

My Advice

Remember that you’re not alone! I often fell into the trap of feeling like I had to figure everything out and solve every single problem on my own, especially as a first-year student who was unfamiliar with UConn. However, this is far from true. UConn has so many incredible resources (such as OUR!) for which their only purpose is helping students succeed. Don’t be afraid to visit these resources in person and ask questions. They are all so welcoming and genuinely want to help you. I know it might feel like you’re on your own at UConn, but there are so many people who want to see you be your best self and achieve great things. You got this!

Click here to learn more about Lucie.


Tips for Successful Collaborative Research Projects

By Grace Vaidian, Peer Research Ambassador

Picture of the center of the UConn Storrs campus in a painterly style with text: Student Researc h Blog: Tips for Successful Collaborative Research Projects. By PRA Grace.In my previous blog post “Tips for Starting an Independent Research Project”, I provided advice on developing a self-driven research project. While the pursuit of independent projects is undeniably valuable, the reality for many undergraduate students seeking research involves participation in collaborative research. Solo projects need funding and resources, which can be hard to obtain alone. Collaborative projects often offer more accessible routes into research, leveraging existing resources and established teams. This could be through a research lab or joining a professor’s ongoing study. In this blog, I will explore key tips for successful collaborative research projects, drawing from personal experiences and lessons learned.  Continue reading

Stuck in a Research Rut? This Might Be Why

By Darren Lee, Peer Research Ambassador

Picture of a sculpture on the UConn Storrs campus in a painterly style with text: Student Research Blog: Stuck in a Research Rut? This Might Be Why, By PRA Darren.Looking back at the last three years, I can say with confidence that research is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had during my time at UConn—it’s been an incredible opportunity to dive into my field and understand the scientific process up close. However, I’ve also learned that it’s often a difficult, grinding process rife with setbacks and failures. Although it can be deeply satisfying to finally establish a protocol or collect a set of results after months of hard work, it’s equally true that a lot of the time, you feel like you’re on a long road to nowhere. Even as someone who really enjoys research most of the time, there have certainly been occasions where I’ve put my head down on the bench questioning my life decisions! Whenever I’m struck with that feeling, it helps me a lot to think about where it’s coming from. With that, let’s talk about some reasons why you might be feeling down about your research right now and what you can do to pull yourself out of it. Continue reading

Taking Research to the Next Level: Advice for Applying to PhD Programs

Aerial picture of Wilbur Cross building on the Storrs campus in a painterly style with text: Student Research Blog: Taking Research to the Next Level: Advice for Applying to PhD Programs. By PRA Lucie.By Lucie Lopez, Peer Research Ambassador

Engaging in research as an undergraduate student can lead to wanting to pursue research as a career, which comes in the form of a Ph.D. for many students. This path was true for me as my experiences as an undergraduate research assistant, SHARE (Social Sciences Humanities and Arts Research Experience) apprentice, and IDEA Grant Recipient have shaped my career goals. Once I realized I wanted to further explore research by getting a Ph.D., I embarked on the journey of applying.

When I was applying, I had many questions, but I didn’t always know who to ask because I didn’t know many people who had been through the process. However, those people who I did know were invaluable resources, as they had first-hand experience and could give me great tips and advice when going through all stages, from researching programs to interviewing.

If you’ve just started thinking about getting a Ph.D. or if you’re about to go to your first interview, I hope the tips below can help you out with the application process. Continue reading

Taking a Step Back

By Riley Beckham, Peer Research Ambassador

Picture of a lighthouse at the UConn Avery Point campus in a painterly style with text: Student Research Blog: Taking a Step Back, By PRA Riley.Almost four years ago, I began my journey at UConn pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.  Like many aspiring engineers, I knew that I had chosen a difficult major. At the time, I was excited by the challenge and eager to prove myself in my chosen field. I knew the next four years would be filled with learning and growth opportunities, and I was excited to overcome the challenges associated with this degree.

What I could not anticipate at the time was how all-consuming my academics would become. I felt like all I had time for, day and night, was school. Wake-up, go to class, come home, do homework and study well into the evening, go to bed late, wake-up the next day. Rinse and repeat, day-in and day-out. Weekends? What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than studying at the library?
Continue reading

Uncharted Waters – Research Beyond Your Major

By Krithika Santhanam, Peer Research Ambassador

Student Research Blog. Uncharted Waters - Research Beyond Your Major. By PRA Krithika.If you’ve read my bio, you know that I am a pre-medical student studying Molecular and Cell Biology. This part of my UConn story aligns with my described research experience: an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Caroline Dealy’s laboratory at UConn Health and co-president of UConn Pre-Medical Society. However, my UConn journey does not end there.

After being in a STEM laboratory for 2 years, I decided to swim into uncharted waters and pursue non-STEM research, something your typical pre-medical student might not do. I also have an individualized major in Health Policy and Racial Disparities which provoked my current research exploring the experiences of individuals with disabilities in South India through UConn’s BOLD Women’s Leadership Network and a preventative screening volunteer for UConn Health Leaders.

How did I get here, and more importantly, why did I step outside the typical pre-med path? Continue reading

Navigating Your First Conference Presentation

By Emma Beard, Peer Research Ambassador

Presenting your work is one of the most important skills a researcher can learn. One of the best ways to practice this skill and share your work with a large audience is attending a research conference. I had the opportunity to present my research at Cell Bio 2023, the American Society for Cell Biology’s annual meeting, in Boston this past December. Getting to present a poster at such a large conference was an incredible experience, but there were a few things I wish I had known going into the meeting that I hope others can learn from to make the most of their conference participation!

 1. Know your audience, especially when they are familiar with your field

This point may seem self-explanatory, but it was something I was unprepared for. Before Cell Bio 2023, I had only ever presented my research at poster sessions for UConn undergraduates like Frontiers. These events helped me develop skills in designing posters (maybe link and speaking about my research (maybe link, but since Frontiers is open to all fields of research, the way I presented was tailored to an audience less familiar with cell biology.

National or international conferences usually have a more specific focus. Cell biology is a very broad field, so not everyone was familiar with my research, but I was very excited to have a few people who worked in similar areas visit my poster! The only problem was that I had only practiced one version of my presentation that was geared towards a general cell biology audience. Whenever I gave this talk to someone in a similar field, they had many specific questions at the end that I likely could have addressed during the presentation if I had known their background. I think it would be helpful to get to know more about the people visiting the poster first to get a sense of their background, and also practice including or omitting specific details in the presentation based on each person’s research interests. Continue reading

The Three E’s of Networking

By Anabelle Bergstrom, Peer Research Ambassador

Picture of Jonathan Husky in a painterly style with the text: Student Research Blog, The Three E's of Networking, By PRA Anabelle.You’ve probably been told hundreds of times how important it is to maintain positive connections with others. Whether it be your academic, social, or professional life, there are always events you can attend that help you meet others with similar aspirations. Getting to a venue on time isn’t too hard to do. What happens when you get there? Who do you talk to if you don’t know anyone? These are all normal questions that may be in your mind as you begin to learn how to network.

I have come to enjoy attending networking events with others who have similar goals or experiences to myself. Last spring, I attended the New England Political Science Association’s annual conference to present my Holster Scholar project. Being one of the only undergraduates in attendance, I was nervous that I wouldn’t have anyone to converse with. After a few attempts, I found my own way of conversing with professors and students alike. Since then, I have grown much more comfortable networking at most events. I was not born with networking skills. Instead, I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone to practice. Not only have I gotten better at networking, but I have also built a strong support system around me which has given me new professional opportunities. Without starting a conversation with others, I may not have some of the positions I do now. Continue reading

Tools for Your Research Toolbox

By Sana Gupta, Peer Research Ambassador

Student Research Blog: Tools for Your Research Toolbox, by PRA Sana.Staying organized is an important part of being an effective student and researcher. Throughout my time as a student and an undergraduate researcher, I have had the opportunity to try out different tools that have allowed me to keep my ideas, to-do lists, and resources organized and easy to access. These tools not only help me keep my life less cluttered, but they also me to effectively communicate my work and ideas with others.

1. Reference Management Tools

A reference management tool is a program that allows a user to save papers and articles from literature reviews in folders with notes and annotations. After downloading PDFs of papers you have read or plan to read, you can upload these PDFs to the program and save them along with metadata about the paper that can be used to generate bibliographies. I personally use Zotero, which has a corresponding Safari and Google Chrome extension which can be used to save articles directly from your browser. Zotero also integrates with Google Docs and Microsoft Word, which makes it easy to add citations when drafting your own paper. Zotero folders can be shared with others so they can add papers for you to read. Continue reading

Let’s Talk Business: The Power of an Email

By Krithika Santhanam, Peer Research Ambassador

Image of the UConn Hartford campus in a painterly style with text: "Student Research Blog: Let's Talk Business: The Power of an Email. By PRA Krithika"Professors at UConn are engaged in cutting-edge research, teaching classes, grading, meetings, and appointments. In other words, while professors are going through their daily schedule, their inbox is constantly flowing with new emails from students, faculty, and staff for a number of reasons. If you’ve sent emails to faculty and haven’t heard back, you’re not alone!

It’s important to remember that when a professor doesn’t respond to your email or cannot offer you a conversation about their research, it is not a reflection of you and your abilities. It’s easy for your email to get lost in the crowd and honestly, for the professor to just miss it. There are things that you can do to make a positive first “virtual” impression, to set yourself up for success, and to stay away from common pitfalls. Here are some tips and tricks for emailing that I’ve learned along the way: Continue reading