Research activities are integral to universities all over the globe, but it can often seem like a separate part of university life for undergraduate students.
Graduate students are often required to take part in research projects as part of their course structure, but not all undergraduates are required to get involved in research.
However, there are multiple benefits to pursuing undergraduate research during your time at university – it can teach you invaluable things and help you develop skills most valued by employers.
The type of research you do would depend on your major, of but there’s likely to be a few research projects in your department, regardless of what you’re studying.
Try asking your professors or head of department if there are any open positions for research assistants if you’re having trouble picking a project, which could also earn you course credits.
Make sure that you don’t choose to do it during a particularly heavy semester as you may be stretched too thin. We advise that you do it during your last year of university or during the summer, if possible.
Sound interesting? Here are some more benefits of pursuing undergraduate research:
Developing transferable skills
Hardi Sura did a good job explainng her research on use of machine learning for identifying weeds to her mentors for sure during Purdue’s 2019 Fall Undergraduate Research Symposium pic.twitter.com/RWQ8tfgkHC
— Dharmendra Saraswat (@d_saraswat) November 18, 2019
While doing research, you will develop specific skills related to research such as constructing a methodology, mastering various techniques and methods, and so on.
But besides research skills, there are many transferable skills you can develop such as problem-solving, critical thinking, analytical thinking, resilience, time management and collaboration.
Research doesn’t have a fixed syllabus or testing structure, so it helps students think on their feet and work independently towards finding a solution for a particular problem.
This can improve the way you approach certain tasks in the future, also moulding you into a valued employee.
Undergraduate research can help you achieve goals
If you have specific goals you want to reach in college and beyond, undertaking a research project can help you meet them.
According to Nature, “Think about what you want from your research and how much time you are willing to put in. Besides learning the techniques, do you want to learn how to analyse results and design experiments?
“Do you want to learn how to write proposals by applying for undergraduate research grants? Do you want to improve your presentation skills by going to conferences? Do you want to potentially finish a project for publication? Working out what you want to achieve will help you to direct your time effectively.”
Josh: “UIUC was crucial in the development of research skills like proper lab technique & scientific writing. Undergraduate research experience with Dr. Miller was instrumental in my current success. Graduate students always gave guidance, facilitating my passion for research.” pic.twitter.com/qJ2otPFtuY
— FSHN at Illinois (@FSHN_Illinois) November 19, 2019
Undergraduate research means you working closely with a professor or researcher at your university, and could be a great way for you to network and connect with professionals in your field.
Stephanie Wallach, Assistant Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, told US News Education that working alongside faculty mentors can be an invaluable working experience because of their close guidance.
“Faculty are meeting at least once a week with the student. The student is bringing the work that they accomplished that week, they’re discussing it with a professor, presenting what they anticipate their next steps are, how they’re framing the question and how they might want to approach it. Those connections are what take you into your future.”
You’ll also work with graduate students who can offer good advice and networking links as they may have more experience in the industry.
Pathway to graduate school
If you’re planning on going to graduate school to undertake a Master’s programme, undergraduate research could really help you.
Not only does it prepare you for graduate research, it also looks good on your application to grad school as you already have the skills needed. If your work has earned you an author’s name on a published paper, that’s even better!