Research Is Only Scary for a Little While

by Sydney Hill

Hello Honors World!

My name is Sydney and I’m a sophomore in Animal Science. I’m new to this whole blogging thing and I lack the computer skills to figure out how GIFs work so just shake your head really fast and imagine the pictures are moving.

Hill 1I, like many of you, chose to participate in the First-Year Mentor Program. I filled out the online application and excitedly waited for the magic of the computer to match me with the perfect mentor. Much like, the system doesn’t always work and I was left without my perfect mentor. No worries, I persisted and with the help of the giant binder of mentors, I found myself a match.

I must admit, I originally hated my experience with the program (sorry Emily). The lab I worked in was unorganized and I didn’t know how to interact with the people I worked with. I felt like a freshman that wandered into a senior-level engineering lecture and didn’t realize it until it was too late to get up and leave. Slowly as the semester went on though, I got to know the people working in the lab and I finally began to feel comfortable asking questions about the research process. But I still didn’t think it was for me.Hill 2

Later into the semester when I went to talk to my advisor about registering for classes, I mentioned my experience in research. I told him that I didn’t think it was for me and he, being a researcher himself, gave me a long speech about research and all of its opportunities. Apparently it was a pretty good speech because by the time I left that meeting not only had I gotten a job in his lab for next year, but I was also considering a career in research.

Hill 3

I will admit that when I started in my advisors lab that next fall, I still felt that panicky feeling of ‘I am so not qualified for this”. My first task was to take images of muscle slides using a super fancy microscope. In theory it seemed simple, but even to this day that microscope and I aren’t friends. I struggled a lot at first but in the process of struggling, I learned a lot about physiology that I never would have learned in a classroom. Eventually I began to fit into the lab and I started to at least kind of know what I was doing.

Hill 4

Pretty pictures of muscle cells with the fancy microscope

Flash-forward a year and I can honestly tell you that I am so glad that I decided to do the First-year Mentor Program. Without that experience I probably never would have had that discussion with my advisor and I probably wouldn’t be working in a research lab that I love. I’m getting paid to do something that both relates to my major and that I enjoy. Sure, sometimes I sit at a computer and count nuclei for three hours but I also get to take beautiful images of muscle with a fancy microscope. I’ve gained an awesome relationship with my advisor and he has really opened up my mind to all my career possibilities.

So I guess the moral of the story is that even if you hate something, you can still take that experience and use it to get a new experience that you just might love.

If you missed out on participating in the First-Year Mentor Program, it’s not too late to get involved in research! I challenge all of you who have any interest in research to do the following:

  1. Google some of your previous or current professors
  2. Figure out if they’re doing research and if so, what it involves
  3. Decide what interests you and finally,
  4. Email the professor and tell him/her how interested you are in their work.

You’d be surprised how many professors will consider you just for taking the initiative to learn about what they are doing. Maybe you’ll get a meeting to discuss your options and maybe you’ll land yourself a job! What’s the worst that can happen?


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