Last September, I received a mass email from my academic advisor advertising a student research position with a lab on campus that I had never heard of called the Office of the Texas State Chemist (OTSC). This email launched a year-long journey that gave me one of the best experiences I could’ve asked for.
Because of this experience, I think all undergrads should make it a priority to be involved with research at some point. If you’re thinking about getting involved, here’s my advice on how to get the most out of your experience:
Don’t confine yourself to a program within your field of study or college.
Since I began my college career I wanted to be involved in some kind of undergraduate research, but I didn’t really start looking for an opportunity to get involved until last fall. I emailed several professors, but nothing worked out until I replied to my advisor’s email.
Long story short, I applied for the job, got it, and began working for the OTSC, which turned out to be an extension of the research department in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. I found out that not only was I hired to help out in the lab, I was going to work on my own project and submit my work for publication! It was not something I expected at all when I initially applied, and I was excited for the opportunity.
Take any chance you can to get your work out there, such as publications or presentations.
Over the school year, I worked on my project which involved finding a more efficient and effective way to screen animal feed samples for contaminants. Last spring, I presented my work during Texas A&M’s Student Research Week. I also submitted the project for publication to our undergraduate academic journal, and it was accepted!
Finally, take advantage of any opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and try something you never thought you would!
As I look back on the school year and what I’ve learned from my experience, I think that, more than anything, I’ve learned to take every opportunity that presents itself, even if it seems like something I wouldn’t normally do.
If I’d second-guessed myself and decided not to apply for a chance position with an agriculture-based lab, I never would’ve been able to have such great experiences with my co-workers in the lab, and I probably wouldn’t be working on getting my research published right now!
The College of Engineering offers many opportunities to get involved in undergraduate research.