Discovering a passion for research

Sometimes the hardest part of a research project is knowing where to start. You have the big question, but how do you go about finding that answer?

“Research is overwhelming when you think of doing this big project all on your own as an undergrad,” says Julian Greer, a senior exercise science major in the Arnold School of Public Health. “The main focus of a lot of these undergraduate research projects is developing that mentor-mentee relationship, and I think that’s the most important thing.”

The four-week Discover seminar hopes to answer the first question every researcher asks: Where do I start?

“We want to help them get to the faculty and to explore all disciplines — to understand what research is beyond beakers and test tubes,” says Asheley Schryer, assistant director of Undergraduate Research and developer of the Discover seminars, which are informational workshops and not for credit.

The first class helps students find their passion for research by exploring their interests. Subsequent classes teach them how to seek out faculty who have expertise in those areas and who are open to mentoring young researchers.

“At the end we work on setting personal research goals,” said Kenzie Crane, a graduate student working on a master’s in higher education student affairs and a Discover instructor. “Being hands-on with students and providing them these skills gives them more confidence when they are taking these first steps in research.”

That extra confidence led Greer to speak to Raja Fayad, one of her public health professors, about his research, which led to a tour of his lab and, later, a job there.

“The Discover program opened my mind to not be scared of my professors and not to be overwhelmed by their prestige,” Greer says. “The program encouraged me to talk to my professors and get to know what they are doing outside the classroom.”

Greer is in the early stages of a research project with exercise science professor Xuewen Wang that looks at the impact of sleep deprivation on glucose metabolism.

“I think the best thing that I learned from Discover was making relationships with people, getting to know your professors outside the classroom,” Greer says. “They can provide you with advice to help you all through your college career.”

Greer plans to take a year off from school after graduation in May, then will be applying to medical school.

Further reading

The four-week Discover seminar is offered twice a semester. Learn more about Undergraduate Research opportunities.

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