I have decided that I am the kind of person who always needs to be working on something big. That ‘something’ needs to keep me busy, but also needs to be something I want to dedicate many hours of my life to. This has been a recent discovery of mine, but it does make sense with what I have experienced in the past. Usually, I’ve always been happiest when I’ve been working towards a large goal, whether that be a science fair project, a huge presentation for an English class, or a quiz bowl competition. So far, I’ve had two big “somethings” in college that have provided me with the opportunity to pursue a large goal of mine. Last year, it was my first time ever doing research and presenting it at the Blue Ridge Undergraduate Research Conference (BRURC) which I wrote about in a previous post. This year, thus far, I participated in LMU’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I described in my last post.
Both of these activities took hundreds of hours of preparation, but I think that’s what I loved most about them! Whenever I had spare time between classes or if I could not sleep, I would read over my paper or practice my lines. I always was working towards a larger goal, and constantly working on it made me grow incredibly attached to what I was working on. Doing these activities became a way of my everyday life and once they were over, it always felt as if I was missing something even bigger in my life. Thankfully, after our shows of A Midsummer Night’s Dream were over, I could immediately throw myself into another project. I had such a wonderful time presenting at BRURC last year that I have decided to present again at the 22nd annual conference this year, held at King University in Bristol, Tennessee, on March 27, 2015.
The first step to presenting at an undergraduate conference is deciding exactly what topic you want to present. Basically, you can present on any topic you can read about or otherwise do research on. If you want to do a literary review of an author’s works, that is certainly possible. If you have the capability to use a lab to study microorganisms, then you can do that too! The only requisite of whatever you’re researching is that you need to love learning about it. If you don’t enjoy what you are studying about, you are going to spend months working on something you can’t stand. Research, especially those done by undergraduates, does not need to include ground-shaking new discoveries or the cure to infectious diseases. The topic you choose just needs to be enjoyable!
Last year, my project was heavily focused on philosophy and literature, but this year I knew I wanted to try doing research within psychology so I could get a feel for psychological research. I absolutely love psychology and I recently discovered in a psychology class I’m taking this semester that I thoroughly enjoy the field of cognitive psychology. Cognitive psychology deals with the study of attention, language, problem solving, and other cognitive processes. What I enjoy probably the most, however, is the study of perception, which encompasses how the brain computes and uses sensory information. Even more specific, I find visual perception fascinating! Vision has always been at least a little interesting to me, but I never knew exactly how complex it was. I didn’t know specifically what I wanted to do with visual perception, but I at least had a general direction in which I could move along with my research.
Once a general topic is chosen, the next step in the research process is choosing a faculty member who will oversee your research. For BRURC, the faculty advisor answers any questions, helps students navigate the research process, and generally just help point students in the right direction. Luckily, I have been able to work with a previous professor of mine in the psychology department. Basically, you need to choose a professor who is first, willing to work with you for the entirety of the research process and second, a professor you get along with well. As in the subject you are researching, if you cannot stand your advisor you will likely not go to them with questions or like being around them whatsoever!
I am beyond excited for this conference. I have a topic I love, a wonderful advisor, and a plan for the next few months of research! For more information about this year’s BRURC, feel free to visit King University’s conference website.
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, feel free to email me or leave a comment on my blog. If you want to see more posts like this one, subscribe to my blog to receive a new post every other Thursday! As I continue the process of preparing for the conference, I will be adding new posts to my undergraduate research series!