I began my time at Northwestern interested in research, but I had no experience working in research labs as a high school student and no idea where to start. At some point during my first weeks here, I came across a flyer for the Science Research Workshops and decided to try them out. In the first workshop, a faculty member explained the purpose of the workshops was to guide students through the process of figuring out what we were interested in researching, how to reach out to faculty members in those fields, how to set up meetings with faculty to discuss possibly working in their labs, etc., and all of this with the ultimate goal of landing a funded research position over the summer. It all sounded too good to be true!
With the help of these workshops, I chose a summer undergraduate research position working in a neuroscience lab at a peer institution. The lab offered unique opportunities to work in the intersection of neuroscience, language, and autism, and it gave me the opportunity to live at home while pursuing that research. I officially chose the position during winter break of my first year, and then I continued the Science Research Workshops through winter quarter.
In the winter, workshops focused on writing grant proposals, again a skill in which I had no prior experience. Throughout the quarter, upperclassmen students and faculty members helped us set deadlines and revise our proposals with the goal of receiving a summer Undergraduate Research Grants (URG). I was fortunately chosen as one of these URG recipients to pursue an independent research project assessing and developing methods for determining a person’s temporal binding window and potentially be used to more effectively diagnose children on the autism spectrum. Under the guidance of Dr. Baum, I gained valuable skills coding in MATLAB, developing research protocols, and analyzing and presenting data.
After a summer working in this neuroscience lab, I chose to take a different direction in my research. At the beginning of my second year, I accepted a position working for a Northwestern professor in her health psychology lab, and I continued working with her through the rest of my undergraduate career. This past summer, I had the opportunity to stay in Evanston and work in the lab as a paid research assistant through Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research.
Reflecting on my Northwestern experience, I am incredibly grateful for the accessibility of funded undergraduate research. With $3.5 million annually allocated specifically to undergraduates for research purposes and so many professors wanting undergraduates to join their labs, countless opportunities for research exist in any field of interest. I now realize how much of my undergraduate experience was possible thanks to Northwestern resources as a research institution.