The importance of research
While the Neuroscience major integrates research into the curriculum, it is possible for students to do more than just the required coursework. Neuroscience majors typically get involved with research by working in a laboratory (either at the University or with a laboratory in another institution).
Remember that research isn't about "working in a lab" - it is a process of discovery where students use the scientific method to generate new knowledge and drive the process of learning. It is a process. It is a way of life and a way of thinking.
Why it is important
- Research is a tremendous learning experience - it teaches you how to think critically, "how to learn" and find things out for yourself
- It helps improve your academic skills
- It hones your reading and writing, and your organizational and time management skills
- It gives you valuable laboratory skills and experience
- It individualizes your learning experience
- It teaches you how to organize, analyze, and interpret data
- It helps develop personal qualities such as patience, persistence, and industry
- It is a "bonding" experience with your co-workers (faculty and classmates)
- It allows you to explore whether research could be a viable career option
Why should you NOT get involved
- Research is demanding and time consuming! If you are heavily involved in extracurricular activities, or if you need a lot of time for study, research may be more of a burden to you than you would expect. For Biology research, the time demands are great
- Research can be frustrating
- Do not do research if you think you need it to get into medical school. A medical school applicant is evaluated as a total package, so if other areas of your application are weak (grades, MCAT scores, extracurricular involvement), the mere act of doing research will not help you get in to a school
- Do not do research if you think you need it to get into a health professional school. In the words of an alum: "Some health professional schools are more interested in your clinical experience than your lab experience". Study the requirements of your professional school (such as Veterinary Medicine or Physician's Assistant programs) before making a decision.
- It adds stress, especially if you have deadlines to meet or out-of-town conferences to attend
So ask yourself the following:
- Since research is a way of learning, it has to be part of your academic plan. So think about your academic plan. What do you want to accomplish as a student here at the University of Scranton? What skills do you want to develop? Does research enable you to achieve your academic goals?
- Do your homework - find out what the faculty do for research. Find out what students do. Read the papers that come from the different labs and see what types of scientic problems are tackled. Do they excite you? Are they intriguing? Do they pique your interest and inspire you to think about things? Can you spend countless hours of lab time doing what we do?
- Each faculty member has a unique way of thinking and mentoring students. Is he/she the best person to help you achieve your academic goals?
- Think about the time commitment - research takes a LOT of time. There are times that labwork can become very tedious, boring, and frustrating. Are you ready to make the time commitment to this? Or will it be likely that you will focus on studying and let your research commitments lapse? If your grades are not as high as you want them to be, you may want to focus on your traditional coursework instead.
- Are you motivated to work on your own? Do you think that you can work with minimal supervision? Do you think you are the kind of person who can explore new ideas, or do you need a lot of guidance?
How do you go about getting involved?
- Think carefully if research is right for you (see above). Consult with others (students, faculty, your advisor). Remember: research involvement should be part of your academic plan. It is not something in which you "dabble". Read about other students who have done this before.
- Look through the faculty research profiles and see what kind of research interests you.
- Decide what type of research involvement is best for you. With the exception of the Honors program (which is an invitation-only program), the other venues of research are open to all students
- Approach the faculty member (either in person or by email) to see if he/she has room in the lab. If you approach the faculty member by email, please treat the electronic mail as a formal correspondence, not a casual note that you write to your friend. Make sure you understand that the time demands for research are different for each faculty member.
- See if you can "rotate" through a lab - spend some time with a faculty member or a research student and see if the research is right for you.