A Step Back

After last week’s monstrous data post, I thought I’d take a break to talk a little about how I got involved in summer research in the first place. I think this is important because, to me, as an underclassman, the whole idea of ‘conducting research’ was shrouded in mystery and confusion.

Some students probably come to WM knowing they want to get involved with research as an undergraduate, for pure interest, gaining experience, and their resume.  As a freshman, I thought of research as limited to science majors, something done in a lab with lots of tubes and safety goggles. Or maybe one day I’d be lucky enough to try out some of my own linguistic studies by tromping around recording people’s speech.

So instead of coming to classes as a go-getter looking for research opportunities, I stumbled upon research opportunities by translating my interests into projects. In the fall of my sophomore year, I applied to MANOS, interested in a group that used student’s academic skills to serve others, and in something to do for Spring Break. MANOS introduced me to a systematic way of applying research to the real world, and to Dr. Aday, the professor associated with our group seminar and trip, and my current Chappell Fellowship advisor. By the end of that spring semester, I was deeply entrenched in the MANOS research, especially the social network analysis, and hungry to learn more. This lead to some literature review research last summer, and continued extensive involvement with the MANOS research throughout the year.  As a result, this year I felt driven by a genuine interest to form a specific research project that addressed something I thought necessary to reaching MANOS’ goals, and to apply for a Charles Center scholarship for summer research.

I’m sharing this slice of my research background, not because I like to blog whole paragraphs with ‘I…I…I’ sentences, but because I hope that sending this out into the void might help someone who was in my situation, where a research project seems like an obscure and unsolvable puzzle. And maybe to show that if you have an interest, funding a research project to follow that passion is very possible and achievable at William & Mary.