Student Research Blog

Lit Review Tips and Tricks

By Emma Beard, Peer Research Ambassador

As a STEM major, my biggest misconception about research was that I would spend more time at the lab bench than at my desk. I was surprised to find that for the first week of my time with the Health Research Program, I ran one or two experiments and then spent the rest of my time reading papers. At first, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough work since I wasn’t getting any data, but as I began to design my own experiments and brainstorm project directions, I realized just how important it is to learn from others’ projects. Reading research articles has been a constant throughout my time involved in undergraduate research, and through experience, I’ve discovered a few tricks that I would have loved to know when I was just getting started. While these tips are based on my experience in STEM research, hopefully one or two of these tips can help you as you begin your research journey, no matter the field!

1)  Write down every paper you read

I don’t know how many times I’ve thought to myself, “oh I read this in a paper,” and then realized I couldn’t remember which paper I found it in. Especially when I was first getting started, I read a lot of research papers to get introduced to the field, but thought about them in almost the same way as a textbook for a course where once I learned the material, I could move on. I didn’t realize how much I would need to refer back to papers later on, especially the materials and methods section for guidance on how to plan my own experiments.

Whether it’s a hand-written list kept in your lab notebook or typed out on your computer, write down the title and a few key points or relevant experimental techniques from each paper you read. I’m usually someone who prefers to handwrite rather than type (and did when I first started making my list), but for ease of reference, I’d recommend a typed list. Control/Command+F will be your best friend once you’ve read enough articles, and having the direct links available is extremely helpful. Continue reading

Semester Survival Hacks

By Anabelle Bergstrom, Peer Research Ambassador

Navigating research, academics, and extracurriculars can be daunting. Luckily, time management doesn’t need to be scary! At the beginning of every semester, I take some time to reflect on my study and schedule habits. That way, I am in tune with what works for me and what doesn’t. Every semester offers new experiences that change how I approach my responsibilities. I thought I would share some advice on what makes me successful, though it is important to note that just because these tips work for me, doesn’t mean they will work for you. Here are my top five study and schedule hacks to help you succeed this semester.

  1. Dedicated blocks of time– This tip helped me during one of my toughest semesters. Just like you would put a class or club into your schedule, put a block of time that is dedicated for studying. Do not schedule anything else during these times. This will allow your mind to become used to dedicated time to focus. Also, it will assist you in becoming more disciplined with your study habits.
  2. Disconnect – Turn off your phone and computer notifications. You may have heard this a million times, but I promise it makes a difference. Staying focused and present during your study time is a valuable skill to have. Having a distraction free environment will also help prepare you for exams.
  3. Take breaks – Remember to take a few moments when you are studying, and throughout the day, to ground yourself. Take a few deep breaths or drink water. It can even be helpful to set a timer for when to take a break while you are studying. As I mentioned, staying focused is key but remember that you are human. Studying for 4 hours straight can do more harm than good, so setting few minutes of time to go for a walk or grab a snack is beneficial.
  4. Surround yourself with people who understand – Part of surviving the semester is knowing when to throttle up and when to throttle down. You won’t be able to go to every girls night, party, or sporting event. Surrounding yourself with people who understand that you may need some nights to catch up on work or self-care will help immensely. Having a strong support system is key to surviving the semester.
  5. Listen to your body and mind – If you do not get anything else out of this blog post, at least take this piece of advice. Listen to yourself. You know yourself better than anyone. So, if you are feeling overwhelmed, allow yourself to set back and reset. This might look like a hike, a walk around town, or a long gym session. There is nothing more important, even academics, than making sure you are healthy and happy.

Continue reading

Navigating Your First Weeks at UConn

By Lina Layakoubi, Peer Research Ambassador

As thousands of new students are welcomed to UConn, the excitement is palpable on campus. With each new student comes the beginning of a new journey, and though this transition can be fantastic, it is also a time when many students are facing new challenges and anxieties. I can say from personal experience, your first few weeks at UConn will probably be a little chaotic, but within this chaos you will find new passions and overcome new challenges. I want to share some tips that can make your transition less stressful!

1)  Settle In

At this point you’re probably just discovering UConn’s seemingly endless resources. Maybe you’ve left the Involvement Fair with a list of ten clubs you want to join, or you just opened Blackboard and have no idea how to post a discussion board. It may seem like everything is moving at lightning speed and information is being thrown at you from all sides.

If you’re anything like I was, you might be feeling stressed about making the most out of every minute. My best advice at this point is to slow down and take a breath. I promise none of the clubs or activities or dining hall “specials” are going anywhere. What’s most important now is acclimating yourself. Regardless of if you’ve lived away from home before, being a part of the UConn community is a major lifestyle change. Try and find the things that work for you and establish a routine. I remember my first semester on campus, I felt like I was being pulled into activities left and right. It took me a long time to feel settled and I think I caused myself unnecessary stress trying to do everything at once. Taking some time to settle into a routine gives you a chance to take small steps towards making new friends, learning new study habits, and discovering activities. Freshman year is about exploration. It’s about taking your time and figuring out what works for you and what you want out of UConn. Calming yourself down and settling in is the first step to having a great first year! Continue reading

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Getting Into Undergraduate Research

By Fariha Fardin, OUR Peer Research Ambassador

Student Research Blog, 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Getting Into Undergraduate Research. By PRA Fariha.Being involved with research is an invaluable opportunity that I think everyone should take advantage of during their undergraduate years. I can definitely say that being involved in undergraduate research has been transformative for me academically, but also honed my skills and set my career trajectory on a promising path. As I reflect on my own experiences, here are ten insights I wish I had known before embarking on this exciting endeavor (in no particular order):

 1)  The Power of Inquiry

The old adage “Don’t be afraid to ask questions” holds true, though I’ll admit even I hesitated. It can be very intimidating when you’re surrounded by graduate students and professors who are very clearly extremely knowledgeable and busy. However, overcoming that intimidation and seeking clarification can open up opportunities for deeper understanding and more analytical thinking. Continue reading

Finding Balance Within Chaos: Juggling Research With Other Priorities

By Elisa Shaholli, Peer Research Ambassador

Student Research Blog. Finding Balance Within Chaos: Juggling Research With Other Priorities. By PRA Elisa.Sometimes it may feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day for all we have scheduled for ourselves: classes, clubs, self-care, assignments, work, meals, and more! With days where an overwhelming lineup of activities are on your schedule, research may feel like another stressful activity in a long list of ‘to-dos.’

Throughout my time at UConn, there are a few different strategies I’ve found helpful for those days where chaos seems to outweigh balance, and which have helped me with time and stress management. Compiled below are my top four pieces of advice on juggling research amidst a busy schedule, so that not only will you be able to enjoy the research process more by having a greater mental bandwidth for it, but also it will help alleviate current and future stress! Continue reading

Finding Your Research Fit: Bench, Quantitative, Qualitative, or Somewhere In-Between?

By Alexandra Goldhamer, Peer Research Ambassador

Student Research Blog, Finding Your Fit, By PRA Alexandra.With all of the research opportunities available at UConn, it can be difficult to determine which experience would be best for you. One of my majors, molecular & cell biology, is more in line with bench research. My other major, human rights, relates more to qualitative research. Further, my minor in mathematics sparked my interest in quantitative research. I have diverse passions that I have been able to explore through coursework on different subjects. However, when participating in research during the academic year, it is important to commit your time and resources to a particular project in a particular lab. This allows for your knowledge, strengths, and techniques to grow in a particular subject that will inform your particular career goals. So, how do you know what’s the best fit for you?

Attend conferences and workshops

Early on in my undergraduate career, I attended both the Mathematics Continued Conference and some of the presentations that were put on by the STEM Seminar Series that focused on molecular biology. I knew I was interested in these topics and this was confirmed by reading about faculty members’ research interests on their department websites. During both of these experiences, I evaluated 1) how interested I was in each of the topics, 2) what it would mean to make small contributions to these fields, and 3) if I would enjoy the day to day tasks that lead to the end goal of small discoveries. I found myself fascinated by the biology presentations, and was intrigued by the fact that any contribution in this field could potentially have an impact on clinical outcomes. Although I was still curious about what the day to day experience would entail. Continue reading

Why Involvement Shouldn’t Be Optional for You!

By Stephanie Schofield, Peer Research Ambassador

Student Research Blog. Why Involvement Shouldn't Be Optional for You! By PRA Stephanie.The minute we step into college, there is an aura of both stress and also of relief. The stress, for many, comes from this daunting, new academic environment we are exposed to. The relief, on the other hand, is from knowing we’ve finally made it. We all fought so hard to get here, many of us spent our high school years trying to earn good grades and also get heavily involved in extracurricular activities to boost our applicant profile. Now that you’re here, extracurriculars don’t matter anymore, right?

Well, not necessarily! Of course it can depend on the major, but many of us here are either pursuing a job after college or graduate school, like myself. In my last blog, I mentioned my own example of taking a gap year to gain more experience before entering graduate school. People who know me and/or have reviewed my resume and CV before are reading that last entry and last sentence rolling their eyes. Why on earth would I need to gain more experience when I have so many opportunities and experiences already under my belt? For me, it’s not that I need to, but more so, I want to. Continue reading

Internships vs. Research

By Kira Cuneo, Peer Research Ambassador

Student Research Blog. Internships vs. Research. By PRA Kira.As someone who has had both internship and research experience, I thought it would be important to dive into the differences between these two experiences and the value that they have added towards pursuing my future goals.

As an engineering major, there is a focus on securing a competitive internship and making as many professional connections as possible. Research is not something that a lot of my peers have found to be essential to their undergraduate career. Even my professors, who are involved in research themselves, have promoted ways to find internships and future full-time positions. Continue reading

Taking the First Step in Undergraduate Research

By Alyssa Daniels, Peer Research Ambassador

Student Research Blog. Taking the First Step in Undergraduate Research. By PRA Alyssa.Are you an undergraduate student who wants to get started in research at UConn, but you aren’t sure how to take the first step? I know when I got to UConn, I was surrounded by students doing amazing research. I knew there were incredible opportunities on campus, but I didn’t know how to find them! It can be so frustrating figuring out how to take the first step! Here are some tips and tricks on how to get started:

Faculty Bios on Department Websites

This is a pretty straightforward way to get started on your research journey! All you have to do is google your department of interest (e.g., Psychology) and “UConn.” Then go to “people,” then “faculty directory.” Boom! You have a whole list of names, faces, and their current/previous work right at your fingertips. I highly recommend exploring these department pages as this is a wonderful way to get to know the faculty here at UConn in your subject area of interest. Read their bios and get familiar with their work. I’d even recommend googling them to learn more about the research they do! Then, make a list of whose work interests you. The faculty members will almost always have an email address listed. I recommend reaching out! Check out our “email etiquette” section on the Office of Undergraduate Research website for recommendations when emailing faculty. Continue reading

The Research Elevator Pitch

By Erik Choi, Peer Research Ambassador

Student Research Blog. The Research Elevator Pitch. By PRA Erik.Being an undergraduate student researcher requires dedication and commitment, so it’s natural for people around you to question what you spend your time doing.

How many times have you been faced with the question, “what do you research?” or asked to tell someone about your research? These can be daunting questions. Do you give them the full-length response just to witness the puzzlement on their face as they get lost in the jargon of your research? Or do you give them an oversimplification that doesn’t do justice to the nuances of your work? It’s a tough conundrum that illustrates how research can be a double-edged sword: its incredible versatility gives it interdisciplinary breadth that simultaneously makes it difficult for an individual to be an expert in all areas of research.

The ability to talk about your research in a succinct but informative way is an integral part of being an undergraduate researcher. This is where the research elevator pitch is important. Your research elevator pitch should be a 30-second to 2-minute debrief of your work that encompasses the workings and importance of your research. It explains what you study and contextualizes its greater relevance to others outside of your niche. It doesn’t need to be memorized; in fact, you should be ready to tailor your pitch to your audience. It is more so a general blueprint you can follow when you need to talk about your research. Continue reading