“Research.” It’s that mystical word you’ve probably heard your parents, or your advisor, or your professors, or really anybody on campus say, along with “Purdue is a research college, you should get involved!” But what exactly does research entail, and how do you get involved?
Well, if you’re anything like me, getting involved in research sounded boring and tedious. I didn’t want to do it, and thought I wouldn’t, despite the protests of my parents. However, here I am, three years later, involved in three different research projects. If you ask me, that’s one too many and I don’t recommend three at once. Believe it or not, though, I enjoy all three projects I am on and have gained valuable skills through each.
The first project I became involved with started at the beginning of this year. I figured I should get involved in research even though I truly didn’t want to, but I didn’t know where to start. One Environmental Science Club meeting I was talking to fellow Ambassador Jacob and he mentioned that a professor by the name of Dr. Ma did environmental human dimensions research, which suited my interests more than field work since I want to study law. I had never had a class with Dr. Ma and had no idea who she was, but thought it was worth it to at least send her an email. So I got onto her website, read over the research she did, and sent her an email inquiring about any research opportunities she might have along with my resume. Two weeks later, I was working on a literature review studying the agronomic, economic, environmental, and social effects of improved seed technologies on countries worldwide. The best part? I can earn some extra money while improving my data extraction abilities.
Around the same time, my two friends and I were discussing what we wanted to do our Honors College thesis on. We decided it would be best if we all worked on one project together to complete the requirements, and so my second research project was born. We found an advisor, pitched our idea to study the reasons behind positive retention rates in the Honors College, and submitted our proposal to the Honors College Scholarly Project Committee. We will be creating and conducting surveys, facilitating interviews, and analyzing the qualitative and quantitative data we gather to discern the different reasons students complete the Honors College and which practices students find the most valuable.
Finally, this semester I received an email promoting a paid opportunity to become an undergraduate researcher for a game that Purdue was developing in conjunction with the University of Glasgow. The game is designed to educate members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change about the importance of climate tipping points. Even though I was already involved in two research projects, one wasn’t taking up much of my time and I knew this was an opportunity too good to pass up. I applied, not expecting much out of the experience except interview practice, but a couple weeks later, I received an email asking if I was still interested in the position. And so enters my third research project. I help with the writing portions of the game, such as country profiles for the game members and scenarios for the game. UN member nations will play the game in April. Each country will be assigned a country not their own, and have to collaborate and make decisions about how to allocate and use their resources. They will input their decisions, and the game will advance five years into the future every round so that they can see the impacts of the actions they took.
As you can see, there are many different ways to become involved in research, from applying to opportunities you hear about, to starting your own project, to straight up emailing professors you don’t know to inquire about positions. Either way you go about it, there is always research available in a subject that interests you, you just have to look for it and be patient. Each experience comes with their own unique learning opportunities and benefits, whether it’s earning some extra cash, being able conduct your own project the way you want to, or earning credit hours. As someone who was skeptical about research my first two years here at Purdue, I have become an advocate for getting involved in undergraduate research, and I recommend that everybody does so.