Why Choose Research?


Why Choose Research?

Why Choose Research?

—from the PI’s Desk and the Lab Manager's bench

If you’re considering undergraduate research, you probably already know some of the potential benefits: looks good on your resume, can help you explore a potential career path, and can lead to recommendation letters.

However, an undergraduate research experience can also support your long-term professional goals (regardless of what your career path turns out to be), foster personal development, and give you an academic edge. Here are only a few of the advantages to participating in an in-depth research experience.

Enhancing Professional Development

Much of professional development can be classified into one of two categories. The first category, accomplishments that can be listed on a CV (curriculum vitae) or resume, include such items as research skills, poster presentations, or a publication. The second category include skills that admissions committees and potential employers highly value such as the ability to work well with others, make a contribution to a team project, or demonstrate leadership. Items from either category can be used in letters of reference or recommendation, but items in the second category have the additional bonus of contributing to your success outside the lab, in college, and in your chosen career path.

Developing Self-Management Skills

Self-management is the ability to be persistent in planning your life, and to follow through with activities that are important to you—especially when faced with challenges and frustration. During an in-depth undergraduate research experience, you’ll have numerous opportunities to develop the self-management skills that will help you identify and pursue your passion and build the life you want.

Taking Risks to Overcome Fear

Because most new experiences involve getting out of one’s comfort zone, most undergraduates experience a “healthy fear” at the start of a research experience. This fear, when properly managed, can lead to personal development and lessons learned about oneself along the way.

Developing an Academic/Life Balance

To get the most out of your college experience and be successful with your research project, you’ll need to develop the right academic/life/research balance. Although it’s not easy to do, how you organize your time in the lab can serve as a model to help you achieve this commonly sought-after goal out of the lab as well.

Gaining Academic Advantages

Depending on your research project, you might learn to use research tools, methods, or techniques that are covered in an advanced lecture or lab class. If not, there are still plenty of potential academic advantages to be gained such as earning course credit for participating in research, writing a senior thesis, or publishing in an undergraduate research journal.

Exploring the Academic Bubble on Campus

If you’re a member of a research lab, you’ll be more likely to attend research seminars and symposia. Imagine no quizzes or exams—simply learning because you’re genuinely interested in the topic. This will make an impact on you whether it’s related to your current research, projected career path, or is a topic that holds personal meaning. The longer you participate in a research experience, the more inspiration you’ll draw from attending such events.

Making Connections

In a lab, every interaction is an opportunity to make a personal or professional connection. From technical assistance on a protocol, or instructions on how to use a piece of equipment, to learning about events on campus, or getting career advice, the connections you make with your labmates can be a source of both knowledge and inspiration. For many, the connections made with labmates can develop into life-long friendships.

Earning Financial Rewards

Undergraduate research can lead to fellowships, scholarships, paid internships, and other awards to name a few. Some awards might be designated for travel to scientific conferences, to purchase research supplies, or be cash awards to be spent how the winner sees fit. To find out about specific opportunities available to you, check with your office of undergraduate research, as well as search the Internet for research awards and programs sponsored by national or international organizations.

This post was adapted from Getting In The Insider’s Guide to Finding the Perfect Undergraduate Research Experience