As you are looking through colleges to apply to, you may notice they often tout research as a major selling point. But research is a very general term- what does it actually mean to attend a research university?
There are many, many benefits to attending a research university. Even should you not get involved with a research project yourself, your education experience will be affected by the ground breaking research going on around you. The university recruits some of the most brilliant people from all fields to come teach and work on research projects. They will be the professors that teach you and interact one on one with you as they strive to impart their immense knowledge on you. A particular professor of mine, Professor Mark Redekopp, specializes in parallel computing systems, is probably the best teacher of any subject I know. He would also inject some of his really awesome research into a lecture or two. Because parallel programming is such a huge trend in the software industry right now, these extra tidbits of proven useful even years down the road as I have been interviewing for internships.
Moreover, a lot of the students that come to research universities are interested in participating in research themselves. Some of my peers here are already making contributions to their field of study! One of my good friends just had a patent application be accepted by the US patent office. One of my friends from freshman year has also had his name on a published paper. The list goes on, but the point is that all of these peers will be able to provide you with insight, advice, and motivation to find your own way to make a difference in your field, even while still studying as an undergraduate!
And of course, you always have the option of joining a research project yourself. I joined a research project called “Attack Attribution” my sophomore year. The project is basically trying to take a program and automatically determine who the author is. This project has been the biggest catalyst for my intellectual growth over the past year. I meet once a week with my supervising professor and we lay out a to-do list for the week. My tasks have included work on topics usually reserved for graduation education- neural networks, the control flow of programs, etc. From this project, I have both learned how to think outside the box and independently (which is required for research), and have also learned marketable skills that have helped me get internship offers.
Research is just one of the many things to consider when trying to pick a university. College is really a whole picture rather than just a snapshot of classes. If you want to learn more about research at Viterbi, follow this link.