This month I attended the IA academic event called “So You Think You Can Research?”. The event consisted of a panel of International Affairs scholars who were involved with various research projects. This event provided a really good opportunity for students to ask general questions about how to choose a research topic, the best way to find out position openings, and what it is really like to work on a project. An important component of this panel, which the coordinators made a great effort to include, was diversity within the students’ majors and fields of research. Their research projects ranged from analyzing terrorist threat groups, trends in German theater, working in an immunology or cancer research lab, and even interviewing individuals who have committed genocide in Rwanda. Often when research is discussed it is only mentioned in the context of hard sciences (i.e biology, chemistry, neuroscience, etc.) or certain social sciences, such as psychology and sociology. This creates the idea that there is no opportunity for research in other fields of study– such as humanities, language, or the arts– or that research in those fields are not as significant.
Questions for the panel were contributed in part by the students attending and also from a pre-prepared list of questions. I really appreciated the honesty of each of the students on the panel. The panel did a great job of expressing the realities of getting involved in research– meaning your interest in your topic is crucial due to the amount of time and energy that research requires– and even reassured us that there is no harm in trying a research project and leaving if it is not for you. They also offered a lot of great advice for starting out in research. For example, they encouraged everyone to not be shy in reaching out to professors to ask about opportunities and suggested utilizing the resources of the undergraduate research department. Overall I do not think research is something that I would enjoy being involved in as it requires a heavy time commitment and, currently, I don’t have a specific field that I am interested in studying further. However, this panel was incredibly helpful to learn about what to do if I were to become interested in research in the future.