Peer Research Ambassador Blog

Preparing For Your First Research Conference

By: Soumya Kundu, OUR Peer Research Ambassador

Your first research conference will be one of the most exciting experiences of your research career. After spending months working in your lab, this is going to be your first opportunity to meet other researchers in your field outside of your university, catch a glimpse of some of the work being done by peers at other institutions, and maybe even present your own work! However, as with most new experiences, there is always a degree of anxiety that comes with the uncertainty of not knowing what to expect at your first conference. Here, I will offer a few simple pieces of advice that can help you prepare to make the most of this valuable opportunity. Continue reading

Attending Scientific Conferences – Sometimes You Can Be Overdressed

By: Kavita Sinha, OUR Peer Research Ambassador

A month ago, I traveled to the New England Immunology Conference in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Despite the rain and the fact that my hair, which I had spent over an hour straightening, had returned to its natural curly and frizzy state, I was excited. This conference would be a time for me to meet other scientists in the field and to make important connections. Further, it was the first time that I could showcase some of my research in front of people who did similar work, which would only help to improve my presentation skills. I had planned the perfect outfit, both stylish (in my opinion) and professional. And that’s what I want to focus this blog post on. The outfit.

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Learning to Not Be Afraid to Work Independently

By: Emily Saccuzzo, OUR Peer Research Ambassador

Getting involved in research can be pretty scary. I remember my first day I was so overwhelmed with all of the different pieces of expensive equipment I didn’t know how to use. It took me a few months of shadowing to even feel confident enough to do anything by myself. So the question is, how do you know when you’re ready?

One common occurrence in our lab is pouring and loading a PAGE gel for analysis. It was something I’d seen done and done with the help of my grad student so many times by the time it came for me to do this by myself. It was a few weeks into my first semester of doing research and I was tasked with both pouring the gel and loading it completely on my own. It seems silly now how nervous I was seeing as how I’ve done it probably a hundred times since then without fail, but I remember being on the verge of shaking I was so scared to do it alone. But guess what, I did it!

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Navigating a Collaborative Group Project

By: Priscilla Grillakis, OUR Peer Research Ambassador

Getting involved in research was something I had always wanted to do, but was unsure of how to do. In December of my sophomore year, one of my friends from Neag School of Education was approached by two of her Neag classmates to join their research project and apply for an IDEA grant. She mentioned to them that she thought I would be an asset to the project because she thought my Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences major and Spanish minor provided me with a skill set that would complement their educational skill set. I gladly agreed to join their team, and we applied for an IDEA grant that following spring.

While being on an interdisciplinary research team can seem intimidating at first, I would highly recommend it. Being on a team can bring about some challenges, so consider these tips!

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Don’t Be Intimidated – Apply to Fund Your Research Projects

By: Ariane Garrett, OUR Peer Research Ambassador

“Ariane Garrett is a STEM Scholar double majoring in Biomedical Engineering and Spanish. In her freshman year, she was named a Holster Scholar and awarded an IDEA grant for her independent research project, “An Optical System for Analysis of Implantable Medical Devices”. Ariane is continuing her research into this school year focusing on remote monitoring of implantable medical devices using radio frequency powering.”

If you’re interested in getting involved in research or competing for any sort of funding programs (such as IDEA) you’ve probably read some blurbs very similar to this. This short paragraph about my accomplishments thus far sounds pretty fancy. It paints a picture of someone who has everything together, and leaves out all of the ups and downs along the path to the funding and completion of my research project. Every stage of my project (deciding to apply, the application process, and the period after funding) came with it’s own unique set of challenges and worries. The purpose of this blog post is to address overcoming personal doubts at each stage. Continue reading

So You Want to Change Labs?

By: Divya Ganugapati, OUR Peer Research Ambassador

“Every project is a race between your enthusiasm and your ability to get it done. Go fast. Don’t slow down. A year from now, new things will interest you” – Jill Soloway

One of the first things anyone told me on my first day at the Language and Brain (LAB) Laboratory was to make sure to not constrict the breadth of my research experience and involvement by staying in the same lab for four years. My immediate thought was “Why would anyone want to change?” After being a research assistant in the LAB Lab for close to three years, it has become more and more apparent as to how individuals change during the course of their research experience; at least I know I certainly have.

Being able to properly address when and why a change in research is needed is the most important step in catering to your individualistic curiosities, career plans, and interests. Once those questions are answered, being able to switch labs in a professional manner while maintaining your relationship with faculty mentors and researchers is vital.

Here are some “Do’s” and “Don’ts” when thinking about switching labs. Continue reading

Staying Motivated and Working Independently

By: Emily Regan, OUR Peer Research Ambassador

Staying motivated and working independently is not so difficult when every day brings the excitement of a reading a new story or studying the work of a master. However, I’ve learned that when your work evolves into steady, independent tasks, staying focused becomes more challenging, and even more important.

The exhilaration that came with being awarded a UConn IDEA Grant to write and illustrate a graphic novel was all-encompassing, and fueled the first stage of my independent project. I planned my research trip to Newport, RI, studied what supplies I would need to complete the illustrations, and read endless graphic novels for inspiration. This research was hard work, but also work that allowed me to imagine what my project would be like at its conclusion.

As I got further into my project and the work became increasingly independent and detail oriented, I realized I needed tools to help me stay on task. Here are three strategies that helped me stay focused and motivated.

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Off-Campus Research: My Summer REU

By: Sarah Robbins, OUR Peer Research Ambassador

The research I do at UConn is both fulfilling and exciting, but I highly recommend undergraduates consider participating in outside research opportunities during the summer. Off-campus research experiences can help to expand how you think about the research process and can provide you with an in depth look at graduate school.

I found my summer research experience through the NSF REU program. For those not up on the acronyms, this is a program run by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that provides Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU’s). People familiar with the program typically just refer to these as REU’s. You can find a link to the REU database (and many other databases with off-campus research opportunities!) on the OUR website.

After filling out applications and putting together personal and research statements, I was accepted into the SURF program at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in Jupiter, Florida, which is a non-profit private research institute. I participated in their program in the summer between my junior and senior year.

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How to Design Your Research Question

By: Matthew Lin, OUR Peer Research Ambassador

For centuries, man has attempted to find immortality to no avail. Juan Ponce de Leon couldn’t find its Fountain; alchemists threw together chemicals to manufacture an elixir of life. Yet, in the rocky depths of the ocean there exists a creature that seems to have found the secret to endless life.

No, it’s not an ancient dinosaur nor a mutant monster. Nor is it a small microscopic organism. In fact, it’s the humble lobster.

Lobsters have been known to be what’s called “biologically immortal.” Their rate of mortality and cellular aging appears to be decreased or even stable when compared to its chronological age. Reports have said that older lobsters are even more fertile than younger ones. The oldest reported lobster was 140-years-old.

What’s their secret?

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Troubleshooting the Research Process

By: Marisa Boch, OUR Peer Research AmbassadorTroubleshooting the Research Process Blog Post

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

Full disclosure: the research process can be tedious. Progress may be slow, with setbacks seemingly more frequent than advances. Nevertheless, it is important not to get discouraged and, instead, to look at failure with a critical eye. Be open to what the results suggest. Troubleshoot. Use this failure to pave the way for discovery.

For me, my most notable experience with research setbacks occurred this past summer. I had received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) Award to work full-time on my independent research project, and I had high expectations for the progress I was going to make over the course of those 11 weeks. I wanted to achieve X, Y, and Z, and I had a clear-cut timeline for meeting those goals. In the end, however, I only achieved X (after failing several times over) and half of Y (hence why I am using this experience as an example of “setbacks in research”). Here is my story:
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