The Importance of Undergraduate Student Research
At the center of almost all societal progress is research. Where might you, the undergraduate student, fit in to this enterprise? This is the time to explore your interests and see, from the inside, how research is conducted. While you learn the details of creating knowledge, you are also part of a community of researchers. What are the big problems the researchers are trying to solve? How do the experiments you conduct contribute to that solution? And then ask questions larger than the experiments themselves. Are there any ethical questions that the research raises? How does the community address ethical questions? (Think about artificial intelligence and all of the potential impacts on humanity.) Are all voices heard in framing the questions? Are different communities affected inequitably by the research? (Think about impacts of climate change on local as well as global communities.) Perhaps, most importantly, where do you fit? What do you like to do? Explore your interests in research, do you enjoy the details? Do you prefer writing about science – but your research experience gives you understanding of the process? Do you prefer thinking about policy – again informed by your research experience? An undergraduate research experience is invaluable because of the insights it gives you about your own interests as well as how the pursuit of knowledge impacts the society at large. You can’t really learn this in the classroom. Consider a research experience and let that experience help guide you in your career path.