How to Learn About Research Opportunities At Your School

Last week, we introduced you to Danny Santamaria, a SEEDS graduate pursuing her degree in criminology at the University of Tampa. Today, Danny will conclude her guest blog series on research opportunities.

How to Learn about Research Opportunities at Your School
By: Danny Santamaria (CPP ‘11, University of Tampa ‘15)

Are you now interested in obtaining an undergraduate research position? Below are some specific ways to learn about the available research opportunities at your school.

Talk to your professors and guest lecturers
Professors love talking about their research. If you find a topic covered in your class that intrigues you, ask your professor if that is an area in which he or she is interested. If not, it is at least a starting point for a conversation about research opportunities and you may get some leads to others who are doing research in related areas. Take advantage of those open office hours. Do not be like students who visit their professors right before exams.

Surf the web
Check department sites. They will often highlight research areas; these represent research groups within or often across departments. Click on those sites or go from professor to professor under the “faculty” links on a department’s website to find out about the research interests of the faculty. Email a professor once you have found somebody who is doing research that interests you. Be sure to include information about yourself (past research and class experiences) and why their particular project is of great interest to you. If you are using this “cold call” method, be sure to email enough professors so that the statistics of a larger sample size work in your favor (See? You sound like a research assistant already!) In some departments, only three or four emails of this type are needed. For popular research groups, you may need to send more.

Make yourself visible
Attend symposiums sponsored by departments that interest you. When you do go, make sure you are seen – don’t sit in the back. Join the departmental undergraduate group or “club.” They provide good opportunities to network, become part of the fabric of the department, and meet professors. A number of students report meeting mentors at departmental poster sessions. (Did you notice all of those posters on the walls? Read them and find out what’s going on in the labs on that floor.) The more visible you are, the more you become part of the department, the more you will be seen as a potential partner in a future research project. There is no reason to not start this “visibility strategy” early. In fact, if a club doesn’t exist, work with the Office of the Dean and the department, and start one! If it does, take a leadership role and you will meet members of the department that way.

Talk to your first or second year advisor
They may have an opening for their research project or know somebody who does. Your peer advisors and friends can also help. In my case, after working with Dr. LaRose, he became my advisor and now, as a junior in college, I have become his Gateways mentor/ teaching assistant for the freshman seminar type class. And I get paid for it!

Become involved in a research topic that interests you, but do not hesitate to explore research opportunities in other environments.
Often times, students working as interns doing research in industry or researching at another university often have opportunities waiting for them upon graduation. It takes a lot of work to get involved in a lab, but in the end, the experience you gain is definitely worth it. Being involved in research on campus provides a place where students with shared interests can work to discover new things about life or about themselves. They show you the practical side of the field and help you apply what you learn in your classes. It can also show you what life is like in graduate programs and in the working world. Regardless of your major, please go and talk with a professor in your field about their research and, if inspiration strikes, find out how you can try to get involved. All majors conduct research and professors love to share their work with other dedicated students. Research will not only give you the opportunity to share your interests with others, but will also help shape your college experience. For many students, their time in college is the only time they will be exposed to academic research opportunities.

Learning involves more than just going to class everyday and passing exams.Research experience plDanny - SCJAays a critical role in helping to develop our understanding of the world around us. Take advantage of your years as an undergraduate student and use research to grow as an individual and develop your fullest potential.

From personal experience, I know research is incredibly rewarding and gives you a sense of pride in your work potential. As a result of my research, I have been able to travel to present my research at the Southern Criminal Justice Association (SCJA) Conference in Jacksonville, FL (pictured right), the Florida Collegiate Honors Council (FCHC) Conference in Hollywood, FL, as well as presenting in front of my peers at the campus library. Currently, the research I have done with my professor is in the process of being written and will be published soon in a law journal. And while it is a lengthy process, it is one that I expect will to come to fruition.

Thanks to Danny for sharing her advice and experiences. If you have questions, Danny can be reached at: [email protected].