How I Got a Job as a Student Researcher

Nathan Curtis Biomedical, Nathan, Professional & Academic, Research 0 Comments

There are many reasons why I chose USC, but one of the biggest reasons is how easy it is to get research positions on campus. I was lucky enough to get a research position my first semester here, before I had even been living in LA for a month.

Going into college, I knew I wanted to do research for professors because of how many innovations USC is constantly creating. In fact, when I was applying, USC had just created the world’s first computerized retina. These retinal implants send images to a computer. This computer then converts the images to electrical pulses. These electrical pulses are sent to the brain, and this allows the subject to see shadows and depth. I was sure that this project would continue to improve over time. I was blown away by what USC was creating, and I wanted to be a part of that in whatever way I could.

My first month here, I found out about a biomechanics lab that was particularly interesting. The people working on this project performed force-vector based experiments. This lab measured the forces exerted in a system of a person on a wheelchair. Measuring the forces helped to determine the type of wheelchair that works best for people of particular body types in order to minimize injury and muscle strain. I emailed Dr. Jill McNitt-Gray, the faculty advisor, to ask her if I could be involved in some way.

She got back to me right away. After I met with her, showed her my resume, and worked out how much I would commit to the project, she added me to the team. I thought it would be almost impossible to be involved in a project like this as a freshman, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

This year, I decided to switch things up a bit. I switched over to a new project. This new lab is developing a portable ultrasound device capable of thinning the sclera in the eye. Once the sclera is thinner, drugs can diffuse across the membrane easier. This will lower the costs of the drugs, and make it easier to operate on people away from hospitals. This project has the potential to help thousands of people, and the fact that I can work on it as a sophomore is incredible.

If you are motivated and prove yourself to be a hard worker, it will be easy for you to get a job on campus. Viterbi is filled with exceptional students, and professors would love the help of these young and intellectual curious engineers. If you are willing to put in the work, you’ll be able to get a research position just as so many of my friends and I were able to do.

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