RESEARCH — LAUNCHING UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS TO SUCCESS
introduction by Nicole Green’17 | Vol. 3 Issue 1
When it comes down to it, the main purpose of attending a four-year university like Texas A&M is to receive an education. The expansion of knowledge and intellectual understanding doesn’t have to be limited to the classroom, though. College is the time to explore learning in new and fascinating ways. Everyone has a passion—a flame that makes studying and learning desirable. Attending a Tier-One research university provides the opportunity to fuel that flame. One of the best ways to do this is by getting involved in Undergraduate Research.
Undergraduate Research is the best opportunity you’ll have as a student to not only study what you love, but also discover more about yourself. L A U N C H is the new, all-inclusive home for Learning communities, Academic excellence, Undergraduate research, National fellowships, Capstones, and Honors programs, and the opportunities they’re providing for undergraduate students to engage are endless.
THE TRUTH — COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH
by Alissa Moreland ’16, Undergraduate Research Ambassador
MYTH #1 - RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES ARE LIMITED TO STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
Research is open to all majors and disciplines, and that is true no matter what university you attend. As a Tier-One research institution, Texas A&M contains the resources required for research and makes them available to you. Specifically, we have six libraries on campus, and Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin presented the first edition of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit as the five millionth book to Texas A&M in 2015. You can do research in ANY topic.
MYTH #2 - RESEARCH IS ONLY FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS
Completing research as an undergrad is a good idea if you are planning on attending graduate school. But even if grad school isn’t your goal, why wouldn’t you want to enhance the skills and knowledge you learn in class by doing outside research? Plus, research always looks great on a resume no matter what you pursue after college.
MYTH #3 - RESEARCH IS ONLY FOR TOP STUDENTS
Research is for anyone interested in exploring, understanding or answering “how” and “why” questions.
MYTH #4 - RESEARCH TAKES TOO MUCH TIME
The time you spend on research depends greatly on the nature of your research and the research program. Most undergraduate research programs last between 1 to 2 semesters, and if you can manage to spend roughly 5 to 10 hours a week on your project, you’ll be golden.
MYTH #5 - FACULTY ARE INTIMIDATING
Professors are humans like us, and they were once undergraduates too; therefore, they understand the perils of being a novice researcher. Professors want to see you succeed, and most will appreciate your desire to “stand on the shoulders of giants.” Also, professors are your best resource for getting started, and all you have to do is ask them how to get involved in research or to be your research mentor. The worst that could happen is they say no, and the best is that you gain a faculty research mentor to last throughout your college career.
My name is Alissa and I am a senior Sociology major and English minor at Texas A&M University from Keller, Texas. Last year, I completed my first research paper on physician-patient satisfaction levels related to gender with the Sociology Research Fellowship Program. Then I used this research to create a poster to compete in Texas A&M’s Student Research Week. Through my research, I found that patients are more likely to be satisfied leaving a medical interaction if the physician’s gender is the same as their own. Before I found this, I worked with a faculty research mentor, learned how to use SPSS (a statistical analysis tool), and applied the sociological gender communication theories I learned about in class. Once I had my results, I had the satisfaction of knowing I added a piece to the sociological understanding of the world. I have gained so much knowledge and know-how from my research experiences here at Texas A&M. For me, research offered the chance to use the tools I learned in class to answer a question about the world that I was genuinely interested in understanding.
RESEARCH — SOLVING PROBLEMS & MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE
by Annie Salinas ’16, Undergraduate Research Ambassador
My name is Annie and I am a senior History and English double-major from Spring, Texas. You could say that I’ve been drawn to research all my life, since “but why?” was probably my most-used phrase as a kid! I first began formal research in the summer before 8th grade, when my family and I excavated the archaeological site of the Spanish Colonial San Sabá Mission. While there I learned part of the mysterious history of the mission and was determined to find out more. I undertook a year-long project exploring the mission’s story, dragging my family across three states looking for clues in libraries and archives, then turned my findings into an exhibit for National History Day. There was no question about it, I was absolutely hooked on research.
My college research has focused on the intersection of language and literature. In the summer of 2014, I was reading a book of poems when I realized one author’s work—Gerard Manley Hopkins, a 19th-century poet and priest—kept getting stuck in my head like a pop song. I approached Dr. Larry Mitchell of the Cushing Memorial Library on campus, and he encouraged me to delve into that observation for my summer research. I was thrilled to explore the link between Welsh and Anglo-Saxon oral poetic roots and Hopkins’ sound-driven poetry. (You can read my article with my findings in Volume 7 of Explorations, A&M’s Undergraduate Research Journal.) The following school year, I worked under Dr. Robert Boenig to explore the language of beauty in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Both of these projects came to a head this summer as I studied abroad at the University of Oxford in England, where I was able to research in the very places where Lewis and Hopkins wrote. (The fangirling was very real.)
I hope to become a professor, but research isn’t just for students who want to stay in academia. Research is simply an opportunity to solve unanswered questions, create better ways of doing things, explore unexpected connections, and make the world a better place. The output of my work as an English major has been papers and posters, but my mechanical engineering friends have created projects and devices from their research; my biomedical science friend spent her time in the lab searching for a cure for a disease ravaging Africa; my economist friend studied the effects of certain economic factors on the current crisis in the Middle East. Any time you want to solve a problem, you have to do research—researching in college is just taking the problem and solution to the next level. And what better place to do it than Texas A&M? There is a great support system in place here for students who want to engage in research of their own, and ample opportunities for undergraduates (freshmen included) who want to help out on current faculty and graduate research.
So if you like thinking outside the box, solving problems, exploring things that make you curious, or getting college credit for creating your own projects, you’ll probably enjoy doing Undergraduate Research at Texas A&M. You’re about to spend four years at a Tier-One research university—and with your own research, you can contribute to what makes A&M renowned the world over!