Introduce Young Students to Research Early
When I was a freshman in college, I set my sights on attending medical school by way of a fancy Biomedical Engineering degree. I was aware that to even be considered, I needed to showcase a heavy role in research. So what did I do next? I requested to volunteer with any professor that would take me in. Unfortunately, I was faced with the harsh reality that many undergrads don’t get to participate in research until it’s time to embark on the Senior Design project. Why is that? Well the most common reason I was given was that I had not completed enough courses yet to prepare me to even hold a beaker. Also, it seemed that not too many other students my age were interested in doing research. But what they did not understand was that at the very least, I just wanted to watch and listen in the background.
It wasn’t until my Junior year when a Biomechanics professor allowed me to assist in research. I remember being in awe with all the machines, sensors, equipment that were being used for just one experiment. As soon as I arrived home I immediately began researching all the methods and biomechanics that inspired the project. I loved the research so much that I would be in the lab on Saturdays at 6am since this was the only time the Orthopedic Surgery residents were available to run experiments. After a few short weeks in the lab, I had learned more basic science and biomechanics than I had in 2 years of engineering classes. It did not take long for me to find my true passion in research and ditch the MCAT prep books.
Now that we are in graduate school we have a stronger focus on the career path we want to follow. But think back to your undergraduate days, surely there was somebody who influenced you to pursue higher education in your given field. As graduate students, we are continuously working hard to further advance our fields, and we should begin to foster the passion we have for our field in the younger students. As a GTA or GRA, I encourage you to invite the undergrads in your classes to tour the lab and learn more about research. Not only is it a great experience for them to get out of the classroom, but it will further develop your own understanding and teaching methods. Engaging younger students to participate in lab activities can also improve student performance.
The Office of Graduate Studies currently hosts the I-Engage Mentoring Program, in which a Graduate Student can bring in an Undergraduate for a summer-long research experience. I recommend for you to look into this program by visiting the website.
About the Author:
Academically, Anthony N. Khoury is a Ph.D. Candidate and Clinical Research Assistant in the Bioengineering Department at UTA. He conducts research with his Ph.D. guide at Hip Preservation Center, Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. Anthony currently serves as the Chair of the Programs Committee of the Graduate Student Senate.