Whose Research is it Anyway?

Caroline Nickerson

Sophomore, History and Chinese major

Research-at-UF
Credit: dental.ufl.edu

Research. The word is nearly ubiquitous on UF campus. However, in the constant babble regarding how to get it, there is nonetheless a certain confusion as to what research actually entails. Well, prepare for clarity! This is Prism’s unstoppable, infallible, and incredibly comprehensive research guide.

  1. Aren’t curbs just those things I hit while I’m driving?

False. CURBS is an organization. In terms of undergraduate research, UF is one of the friendliest campuses in the country. CURBS (the Center for Undergraduate Research Board of Students) is an organization that, as CURBS secretary Rachel Jouni says, “is completely devoted to helping students.” Outside their numerous online how-to guides under their “research opportunities” tab, all CURBS officers hold office hours in which they assist students in contacting professors and various labs. CURBS also hosts research symposiums to which all students can apply. Research for all majors is a cause that CURBS in particular stresses. As Jouni says, “It doesn’t matter what major you are. If you hear a statistic somewhere in your classes, there has to be research to back that up. And if there isn’t…someone made it up!”

  1. How do I (academically) hit on a professor or a lab?

Another technique many students utilize is “random googling.” Search topics and research Professors at UF! Rachel Jouni insists that, after finding a professor who conducts interesting research, it is imperative to “go to their office hours, dress well, talk about research, and then follow up with an email.” Don’t forget a copy of your resume!

  1. I’m a humanities major…can I even research?

The answer is a resounding yes. Dr. Colburn, Director of the Bob Graham Center, points to numerous of the Center’s programs as viable options, including the Civic Scholars (Deadline passed—apply next spring) and Reubin Askew research fellows (deadline also passed). Other strong options for humanities research are the Junior Fellows Program (political science research to which all majors can apply) and the University Scholars Program (which requires a faculty mentor). However, every student can do research through writing an Honors Thesis in their major! Han Chao Zhao, a history major, did just that with THREE personal advisors. Han, whose research centers Tibet, believes that “it is important to research in humanities because our civilization is built upon our past. And the cultural traits of the human groups are the only characters to create diversity.” Han, like most humanities majors, conducts his research with the use of statistics, interviews, and cross-reference analysis (as well as occasional hacking).

  1. How can research improve my future? Will I find it worthwhile?

Once again, Jouni saves the day in regards to this question. In her view, “Research is basically on par with an internship, even above. The experience you gain is real life. Here at UF, it seems like everyone throws around the word research like joining a club or volunteering. That’s not the case elsewhere. At other schools, grad students fight for the positions we have. That’s a benefit of UF’s size! Research is a test drive for your career because you find your passions. You’re doing real things. It’s super cool.” Shar Siddiqui, a sophomore and already a seasoned researcher, confirms this point. She feels that “participating in research has so far been one of the most rewarding parts of my academic career. In the lab, I’ve gained invaluable hands-on experience using statistical software, learning about the impact of biofuel production on the environment, and meeting graduate and PhD students that share my academic interests.”

  1. Will I make a mistake in the lab and ruin everything?

Probably not. Jouni says that, in general, “When you first start, you’ll do the basics of the lab. For instance, for a psychology lab, you’ll talk to participants, write surveys, etc. They’ll train you and you’ll work up to harder tasks. Still, it varies for every lab.”

Nonetheless, no matter how rewarding research may be, some students are still disappointed. Siddiqui, when asked what is the biggest mistake that undergraduates make in regards to research, replied that “undergraduates looking for research can have overly high expectations. It’s important to be persistent, open minded, and acknowledge that the experience may be completely different from what you may have expected.”

Go get ‘em, tiger!

Helpful links:

CURBS Research Opportunities How-To Guides:
http://cur.aa.ufl.edu/undergraduates.aspx

Graham Civic Scholars (The application deadline passed, but it is open every spring):

http://www.bobgrahamcenter.ufl.edu/students/graham-civic-scholars

Reubin Askew Scholars (Deadline February 1st):

http://www.bobgrahamcenter.ufl.edu/students/reubin-askew-scholars

US State Department Internship (Involves Research; March Deadline):

http://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USSTATE/bulletins/ea1ef2

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