Students aren’t waiting for grad school to do hands-on research
By Stephanie Widzowski
Emma Bullock, a Haverford senior, has a full plate. She takes physics, advanced German, and multiple high-level chemistry courses at a time. She gets up early to run and sings in an a cappella group of which she’s been a member since freshman year. She spends long evenings in the lab, but it’s not for classes. Bullock does research, a chance many undergraduates get to solve intriguing questions or help them get into graduate school.
The number of Americans going to college, including grad school, has increased steadily over the past few decades, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
With higher enrollment comes opportunities for STEM undergrads at four-year schools to do research. Often all it takes to get involved is asking a professor if they need help with a project.
Bullock studies the health of honeybees and whether chemicals in their bodies can show disease. She hopes to find a cheap, easy way for beekeepers to check on their hives. She started as a sophomore on a senior’s project and has made it her own.
“So, what I did was I took the methods that I worked with her to develop, and just worked individually my junior year to do them,” said Bullock. Her adviser Helen White steps in if something is confusing, but otherwise, Bullock adds, “You’re on your own.”
This might sound scary, but it seems to foster independence.
Junior Lily Bennett studies conifers with biology professor Jon Wilson, and senior Divesh Otwani develops new ways to write computer programs with a professor at Bryn Mawr. Both attest to the freedom and confidence their work gives them.
Research is also a chance to get to know a professor on a deep level. Mentors can also help students get more out of the learning process.
“[Jon] helps me analyze my data and suggests readings for me,” Bennett wrote. “I honestly can’t speak highly enough of Jon, though. He’s really the best.”
These three students do research on top of their coursework. How do they balance it all?
“So it can be tough, but Jon is flexible with when I get things done, so long as I get the work done,” Bennett wrote.
Bullock just laughed. “I had no choice,” she said. Continue reading