UR@NU--UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH AT NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY
Research [ree-surch] – to explore what interests you with the hope of learning new things about it
Okay, so that isn’t a real dictionary definition of research, but it is close to how it is understood at Northwestern. Too often people consider research as simply what people do in labs, but while lab work is very important, research encompasses so much more.
Research, at its core, is about passion and exploration. If you are interested in something, it is natural to want to learn more about it, but what happens after you have exhausted Google and Wikipedia? What if you want to learn more? What if what you learned showed you huge gaps in understanding about your topic? Maybe there is more to learn. Maybe it is you who could fill those gaps. That moment is where research comes into play.
"Everything that we're doing is something that's never been touched upon before, and we are using methods that are being thought of every day. So, this experience has helped me to think a lot more independently than I would of in a normal class." - Ian Lizarraga, Northwestern Undergraduate
If you want to learn about genes or how chemical processes work, then you will probably end up in a lab doing what many people envision when you say research. However, if you want to learn about a distant culture, your research may lead you to travel, meet, and even live with those people as part of your research. If you are interested in an historical event, research for you may be exploring an archive of photos and documents to piece together a story from the past. Research can even mean the explorations done to create a creative performance. In other words, research can take on many meanings depending on what you want to know. Research is about following your passions and learning new and amazing things.
This web site is designed to help you understand and identify opportunities for getting involved in research as an undergraduate at Northwestern. The first link to the left is called “What is research? How to get involved?” It focuses on understanding the basics of what research entails, while recognizing the differences in research approaches and practices across disciplines. Therefore, that section quickly separates into the three main research areas: Natural Sciences and Engineering, Social Science and Journalism, and Arts, Humanities, and Performance. Each subsection explains what research looks like in that world and how to get involved in it.
Next, we have “Research Opportunities,” where you can begin your exploration of the amazing possibilities for undergraduate research at Northwestern and beyond. Here you will find a link to university-wide programs sponsored by the Provost's Office as well as a new searchable database of research and other engagement opportunities called the Undergrad ARCH (Accessing Research and Crreative Help). This database points to opportunities in labs, opportunities abroad, opportunities for internships, opportunities for grants and fellowships, and many, many more.
The third section is called “Resources,” and lo and behold, it offers resources in getting started in research. Here you will find examples of winning grant proposals, "how to” guides for preparing applications and writing research proposals, and information about where to go for advising. Remember that each research program will have its own unique application process, so make sure you check what each opportunity needs.
Research doesn’t necessarily end when you complete your project. The “What to do with your research?” section outlines possible opportunities to share your discoveries with the world. There is a link to the Undergraduate Research Symposium, an annual event celebrating student research and accomplishments. There are also links about possible conference and publication opportunities as well as information about graduate studies, if you have been fully bitten by the research bug.
There is even a section for faculty members to help them to help you, explaining the fantastic benefits that they receive from mentoring undergraduate researchers.
While we could go on and on about the wonders of doing research as undergraduates, we figure the most convincing argument comes from your peers. So look and listen to what your contemporaries have done, and then start exploring how you can join them by researching what it is that fills you with passion and excitement.
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