When I first heard the term “undergraduate research”, I envisioned students wearing lab coats pipetting endlessly into hundreds of tubes. I quickly discovered that my expectations were much different from reality. I never envisioned that I would have the opportunity to design and execute somethings that began as a simple interest and idea. I also did not imagine that research would become a pivotal piece of my undergraduate education (as it can for you, too!). Here, I compiled my top 5 reasons (in no particular order) as to why you should participate in research as an undergrad.
- Opportunity to be creative. Research gives you the opportunity to be creative and inquisitive. The research world is your oyster and can be done in any (and I mean any) field. Interested in math? Philosophy? Ecology? Chemistry? There is opportunity for you in ANY field.
- Enhance your communication skills. One of the most fun parts of research (IMHO) is dissemination. Whether it be in writing, a poster or oral presentation, you have the opportunity to share your work and experience with other interested individuals. You learn to communicate in different ways with people from diverse backgrounds. Not only do you have the chance to share your work, you also learn from the experience of others.
- Connections and Networking. Professional connections are inevitable when partaking in research. You will meet people in your prospective career, but you will also build connections with other professionals. Not only have I made professional connections, I have also made lifelong friendships and relationships throughout my research experience.
- Build resilience. Roadblocks in research are also inevitable. And it is OKAY! What matters? How you continue to move forward. The process will frustrate you, but it will also support your growth as a student and intellectual as well as challenge your ways of thinking. Work through the disappointments and you will evolve in ways you never imagined.
- Demonstrate dedication. Participating in research is a huge commitment that should not be taken lightly. It takes a large amount of dedication to endure the responsibility of incorporating research into your life and a sense of satisfaction when you are done.
Ashleigh Harrah is a senior in the honors college studying Cell and Molecular Biology and Biomedical Sciences. She was the recipient of the Modified Student Summer Scholar Award at Grand Valley State University for a project investigating microRNA-34b/c as blood based biomarkers for Parkinson’s Disease. In her free time, Ashleigh loves to read, go to hot yoga, and play with her puppy.