I’m sure that most of you by now have heard of at least one undergraduate research project being on done campus, or maybe you’ve seen mention of it on the University of Washington Bothell’s website. At first, the word “research” may seem a little intimidating; it reminds you of long, painful, fifteen page essays that consist of many, many hours of staring blankly at a computer screen and chugging coffee until 2am. But I am (a fellow undergrad researcher studying the behaviors and vocalizations of our campus crows) here to tell you the truth about partaking in undergraduate research here on the UWB campus and bring to light all of the possibilities and benefits that can go along with it!
Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard.
Before I get to how amazingly rewarding research can be, I’ll cover the hard facts first. Yes, you will have to put in effort. Yes, you will have to give up some of your precious and seemingly sparse free time. Yes, there will be deadlines and expectations for you to meet. Just like any other college related thing, you’re going to have put in the time and effort. Research isn’t a free ride to a few extra credits and a resume booster (though it does look AMAZING on job apps and really gives you a leg up against all of the competition out there); it’s much much more than that. It’s an opportunity for you to get real world experience under your belt and discover if your chosen field is really what you want to be doing for the rest of your life. Now, the research you do doesn’t necessarily have to be exactly what you want to do as a career. Research is pretty open-ended and gives you a lot of room to pick your own study, so doing research can at least give you some insight on what it might be like, or give you ideas on what you might want to do.
Getting started really isn’t all that scary…or difficult.
For those of you who don’t know, getting into a research team might seem a little intimidating or confusing. Every undergraduate research project is ran by a faculty member and if you start research in your first or second year on campus like I did, you may not know a ton of professors in your chosen degree program yet. That’s why it’s a great idea to contact and schedule an appointment with the Undergraduate Research Advisers at the Student Success Center located on the first floor of UW1. These advisers can put you into contact with faculty on campus who would be a good fit for the type of research that you want to do.
But what if you’re not sure about what you want to research? Well, that’s what the Undergraduate Research Fair and the Undergraduate Research Symposium are for. If you can’t make it to those events, then you can check out the research teams and proposals in the online booklets. Once you find a project that sounds like a good fit for you, you can contact the faculty member in charge of the research (their name will be listed in the abstract). More than likely, they will want to have a meeting with you to go over if there’s room on their team, why you want to be involved, what’s entailed, etc. Now, if you really want to impress this instructor, I would recommend asking them as many questions as you can about their research. Not just the nitty gritty of what you will be doing, but what their research is actually accomplishing and the progress that has been made thus far.
I also suggest going to the UWB home page and looking up the professor you are interested in working with by typing their name in the search bar at the top right corner. By doing so, you will find the specific instructor’s page detailing their current/previous projects so you can get a better idea on why they chose to research a certain topic and what they hope to work on in the future. Faculty members take a lot of pride in their projects, so showing as much interest as possible in the work they’ve done will really boost your chances of getting in.
You will get to do some pretty amazing things.
Picture a day in the life of your dream job. Are you a child psychologist sitting in a classroom, clipboard in hand, documenting the behaviors and interactions of toddlers? Or are you a computer programmer, working on an augmented reality software for promoting a large corporation? Whatever it may be, you could be doing it right now even without a degree. Undergraduate research is completely hands on; you will be out in the field, in the lab, or attending a conference to conduct and further your projects. For the research I am partaking in I am almost always outside, setting up and recording play back studies on our campus crows. But when I am inside, I’m analyzing videos and sound recordings in the lab. It’s an experience like no other, being able to do what I have dreamed of doing my whole life and getting to do it before I have even graduated from college.
Scholarships (aka free money)/extra upper-level credits.
Yet another perk of becoming an undergraduate researcher is that you will have access to hundreds of additional scholarships such as the Mary Gates and Founder’s Fellow awards that are only granted to students participating in research. These scholarships are to provide student researchers more time to dedicate to their projects and less time on worrying about paying for college tuition or rent. These awards look amazing on resumes and come with an award banquet, interviews by school organizations and local papers, recipient breakfasts, and special recognition at graduation. Let’s just say that these awards are quite prestigious and will really make all of your hard work worth the effort. You can find out more information about the UW scholarships available for undergraduate researchers here, or by going to the Student Success Center and making an appointment with an undergrad research advisor or scholarship advisor.
Besides the scholarships, you will also receive upper 400 level credits each quarter for your research. Most degrees on this campus require that you get lots of 300 and 400 level class credit in order to graduate, so research is a great way to meet those requirements. This of course varies depending on how long you participate in research, the time you put into it each quarter, etc. etc. You and the faculty member you are working with, will go over the details to ensure that you are receiving the appropriate amount of credits for the work you put in.
The drive to do your best.
Undergraduate research has really shown me what it is like to work out in the field and get a taste of what my future career will look like. It has motivated me to push through college and put my best effort into class so that I may reach the goal of making it into my dream job and be able to continue on with wildlife research. Just taking classes alone can sometimes feel tedious and almost pointless at times, but when you’re doing research with an actual purpose and meaning – aside from getting a good grade – it can really give you that extra incentive to reach your goals. So I heavily encourage you all to do a little research of your own to find out about and get involved with an undergrad project on campus. It is worth the time and effort, and I guarantee that you won’t regret it!