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
By Riley Beckham, Peer Research Ambassador
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?
By Krithika Santhanam, Peer Research Ambassador
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
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 https://ugradresearch.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/323/2014/02/Poster-Preparation.pdf) and speaking about my research (maybe link https://ugradresearch.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/323/2014/02/Poster-Prepare-Yourself.pdf), 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
By Anabelle Bergstrom, Peer Research Ambassador
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
By Sana Gupta, Peer Research Ambassador
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
By Krithika Santhanam, Peer Research Ambassador
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
By Grace Vaidian, Peer Research Ambassador
As I transitioned from conducting research in high school to embarking on a new academic journey in higher education at UConn, I couldn’t help but notice some distinct differences in the research landscape. Back in high school, my research endeavors were predominantly solitary. I would conceive a project idea, gather the data, write a research paper, and even compete in science competitions, all largely on my own. However, once I became an undergrad at UConn, I quickly realized that the normal approach to research was notably different.
Here at UConn, a prevalent avenue for delving into research is to reach out to professors and join their existing projects. While the structure and guidance that this approach offers can be undeniably valuable (it’s how I obtained the research opportunities I’m currently working on!), there are students who feel like they have a brilliant research idea of their own but lack the know-how to bring these projects to life. I’m here to offer some tips on how to initiate and successfully navigate an independent research project. Continue reading
By Lucie Lopez, Peer Research Ambassador
“Why do I need research? I don’t need to write an Honors Thesis.”
“I can’t do research; I’m not a STEM major.”
“Why should I do research? I’m not going to medical school.”
Do any of these statements sound familiar? Have you said or thought these yourself? If you’re asking yourself these questions or if you’re skeptical about getting involved in research, read on.
Close your eyes and picture a “researcher.” The image that probably popped into your head was a person in a white lab coat sitting at a lab bench, working with a pipette and a microscope. That person is a researcher, but they represent only a fraction of what research looks like.
Before coming to UConn, I didn’t know what research could look like. I was stuck on the image of the person in the white lab coat. However, as I became more involved with research, I realized it didn’t have to look like that. As an undergraduate researcher working on an IDEA Grant project investigating the relationship between participation in free/reduced school meal programs and sense of belonging at school, I collect quantitative survey data and qualitative interview data. I spend a lot of time at my computer reading previously published research papers, creating surveys, and statistically analyzing data. The type of researcher I am is another tiny fraction of what it looks like to be engaged in research.
For an English major, research could involve reviewing literature archives and writing a literature review summarizing what they read and how it can contribute to a more extensive investigation. The SHARE Summer Apprenticeship program supports social sciences, humanities, and arts students. This program is geared towards first- and second-year students from underrepresented backgrounds with little to no research experience. In addition, research does not only involve analyzing data or literature. Research can also include creative and community service projects. The IDEA Grant program supports various creative projects, from documentaries to composing music to puppetry. Engaging in research will look different for everyone! Continue reading
By Riley Beckham, Peer Research Ambassador
Almost a year and a half ago, I was nearing the end of my sophomore year at UConn. As an Electrical Engineering major, I was getting my first look at upper division course work, finally starting to peel back the curtain on what people in my field do on a daily basis. I’ll be honest; it terrified me.
I, like most people, don’t like the feeling of not understanding something. Worse still is the feeling of not even being able to describe your lack of understanding, because that would require you to understand any number of other complicated things to put your ignorance in context. It’s a feeling rife with anxiety, and it is this uneasy feeling that washed over me as I continued to work through my courses in the Spring of 2022. Had I made the wrong choice of major? Was this just not in the cards for me? Was I to blame, was it some failure on my part, some personal defect? Maybe I just wasn’t cut out for this…
I knew these questions were normal to an extent, especially at the halfway mark of my undergraduate journey. But that did little to allay my fears, and another question began to burn into my mind; What can I do to make this feeling go away?
Eventually, I was convinced by people close to me to investigate the possibility of getting involved in research. Several of my friends had great experiences with research, and they thought I could get something positive out of it. At first, I was very hesitant. “Who would want to take me on as a researcher?”, I remember thinking to myself. “I don’t know anything. I’m barely keeping up with my classes and I have no confidence in my knowledge or experience.” Despite these misgivings, after a brief search process and some exploratory meetings with faculty, I managed to land a summer job as an undergraduate research assistant at the UConn Eversource Energy Center. Continue reading