Hi wonderful human beings,
There are a lot of reasons to consider getting involved in research as an undergraduate. Getting hands-on technical experience, being a part of cutting-edge discoveries, and fostering close relationships with really cool professors are just the tip of the iceberg.
Another incredible opportunity that can come from working in a lab is being able to attend conferences about really exciting research. For example, two weeks ago I was given the opportunity to spend four days in Bend, Oregon for the Combustion Institute WSS Spring 2018 Technical Meeting. While I was there, presented about the research project I had spent the last year working on. After I finished presenting, I also got to hear incredible presentations about a range of different topics in combustion. While I wasn’t thinking about non-premixed combustion, I explored downtown Portland and Bend, ate some surprisingly good Thai food, watched the gorgeous Oregon landscape, and hung out with my friends from the lab. It was a truly amazing experience that I am so grateful to have been able to participate in.
Regardless of where you go end up, I highly encourage you to look through the different research labs and reaching out to the professor if any of them sound interesting to you. Something I love about USC is how few barriers there are to getting involved in research, even as a freshman. It’s often as easy as finding a lab you think sounds interesting and emailing the professor to learn more. Some of my other mechanical engineering friends work in robotics research labs, fluids labs, and material science labs, so there are a huge range of projects and research areas to get involved in if you just look.