As a tour guide, I always mention on my tours that one of the things that makes UMBC “an honors university” is our emphasis on undergraduate research. I take my tour group up the stairs on the pond side of Meyerhoff so they can see into the big windows and witness first-hand our students conducting important research. No matter what you guys are actually doing in those labs, it looks pretty impressive. I stress that UMBC makes the opportunity of research accessible to all students, in all disciplines. You can get class credit for it, or even get paid to do it! If you’re not sure how to join a research group, or not even sure you want to do research at all, allow me to share some of my personal experiences.
I’ve had two undergraduate research positions, and my first one I actually gained as a second-semester freshman in the linguistics department. At that point, was a linguistics major, and my academic advisor actually offered me the position during one of our meetings. I will say that my experience in that research group helped me figure out what I DON’T want to do. It was actually a great project, I just didn’t feel like it really aligned with my future goals. And honestly, I consider it a great step forward in my personal development, because figuring out what you don’t like is just as important as what finding what you do like!
Now as a psychology major, I have a new research position in the psychology department. You wanna know how I got that one? I looked through the faculty directory of the psychology department, and sent out a bunch of emails asking to join their team. And it worked! The lesson is: you have to go out there and find research, don’t expect it to come to you. I guarantee plenty of professors in your department are doing research, and if you show that kind of initiative and proactivity, they’ll want to have you. Still not convinced about how research can be helpful? Check out this article that actually features a student from Gaithersburg, Maryland!
Maybe you think that you don’t need to do research because you have no plans of doing research after college. I’m in the same boat. I want to use my degree to serve people directly, not work in a lab! But I know that in order to do what I want, I need to get into graduate school, and my application won’t make the cut unless I have some kind of research under my belt. On the other hand, maybe you’re super against the idea of research, but once you try it you find that you love it! Any experience is good experience, so you shouldn't immediately rule out the idea of research because you think it’s not for you.
Perhaps I’ve convinced you, and now you really want a chance to participate in research in your field. If you want the “inside scoop” on how to gain research experience and how it can benefit you, you should attend this workshop that will be held on October 16th at noon in Commons 331. You’ll get to hear from a diverse panel of UMBC students who are either currently conducting research or have in the past. Hearing from people who have actually had the experience you want to gain could be really helpful, so I suggest checking it out.