Getting involved in research as an undergraduate student

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The Faculty of Arts offers opportunities for students to gain work or research experience

by cassidy savard, contributor

The pressure to gain research experience as an undergraduate student steadily increases with every passing semester. For students who aspire to progress into graduate studies, research experience is essential to qualify. As a Psychology student who plans on progressing into graduate studies after my undergraduate completion, I am quite familiar with the anxiety to find opportunities. This pressure had led me to probe professors and peers for any openings during my first and second years. Meanwhile, I would keep a tab open on my desktop on the University of Regina careers webpage to ensure I didn’t miss any potential opportunities. I’m writing this for first and second-year students who are now in that position.

My central advice is to expand your social networks among peers and professors. Build an academic relationship with your professors by asking questions and making inquiries about their research. If you’re interested in their field, then tell them. Often, professors may not have any opportunities to offer, so don’t be deterred by rejection. You don’t even need to have an existing relationship with a professor to ask to participate as a volunteer. Familiarize yourself with the professors and their research in your faculty and reach out to know if they have any opportunities.

However, none of this has to be done alone. Get to know your peers and work with them to find available positions. I learned of one volunteer opportunity by asking a peer if they had found any positions, and they informed me of a lab that was looking for more student volunteers, though it was not yet advertised. Honestly, there aren’t many drawbacks to expanding your networks among peers and professors. Even when receiving a rejection, professors and peers may keep you in mind for future opportunities. A professor of mine who had no available opportunities still informed me of an alternative option that could give me some research experience: the Arts Research Internship Program.

The Arts Internship Program is available to students who are in the Faculty of Arts and seek one out of the two options of experience: work or research, whichever most aligns with their future career aspirations. A student may work within a local organization to gain work experience, or under the supervision of a professor to gain research experience. The program acts like a class in the regard that it lasts a semester, students will pay tuition to participate, and they receive three credits upon completion.

I will be focusing on the lesser-known option of the Arts Research Internship, as this is what I did. Students may be matched with a professor, or they may have a specific professor with whom they wish to work. What to expect when participating in the research option of the internship is dependent on the agreement between the supervisor and the student.

I chose the research option as I was hungry for research experience and curious to find out what a career in research would be like for me. The internship was more than I had hoped for. I was able to get the opportunity to experience what it was like to configure a survey design that would attempt to answer my research question. I finally had practical usage for the information I had gained during my first two years of undergraduate studies. I was tested on my knowledge of theories, concepts, and ethics while I designed my study. Because I participated in the internship, I had clarification on what a future in research may look like. More than that, I learned a lot about my capabilities in research and what I need to improve on to become a stronger student in my future studies.

With all this being said, I encourage students who are beginning their academic careers to build relationships with peers and professors. Anticipate some rejection while you ask for any opportunities, but don’t let it restrict you from following up in the future. Take it all a semester at a time.

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