I hope you had a restful weekend! Mine was fantastic. I got a lot of sleep which was amazing, and I went to the USC vs. Stanford game which was arguably the most exciting football game I’ve attended in my life! I was so glad USC pulled out the win there at the end. It was definitely a nail-biter. I also went to the first two home men’s basketball games of the season last week! I love basketball so it was really fun to see the team play with our new men’s basketball head coach, Andy Enfield. You’ll definitely catch me at plenty more basketball games this year, especially since football season is already almost over!
Anyways, on to the real topic of this week’s blog! I was pondering what to write about, and I realized that I never really say much about one of my favorite involvements on campus and something I look forward to every week: my research.
Since about a month into school my first semester of freshman year, I’ve been doing research on computational modeling of cancerous cell movement with Professor Paul Newton of the Aerospace/Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics departments. Here are 5 reasons I love my research. If think research sounds even vaguely interesting, I’d definitely recommend getting involved! Here are my reasons why:
1. It’s a perfect way to learn about applications of your major (or maybe a different major).
Since I came into Viterbi “undeclared engineering” I was committed to finding as many hands-on opportunities as possible right from the beginning. One of my favorite things about my project is that it’s so cross-disciplinary. The project really involves collaboration between Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science, Mathematics, and more! While I’m actually an Industrial & Systems Engineering major, this project gives me great exposure to lots of other aspects of engineering, something I think will be really valuable in my future career.
2. You get to meet some seriously cool faculty and graduate students. Other undergraduates too for that matter.
My professor is awesome. He’s done some amazing research on all kinds of subjects: he has an impressive background is in physics and applied mathematics, but even more importantly, he’s great at explaining really complex mathematical concepts so that I can understand them. The graduate students in my lab are also great mentors: intelligent, dedicated, and always willing and able to offer advice and guidance. I don’t really work with other undergraduates, but I think that’s pretty uncommon: most labs that my friends work in have several undergrads, which is a great way to build connections with other students!
3. You might come across some really unique experiences, including conferences, travel, publishing papers, and more!
Last Friday I got the opportunity to go to the USC Health Sciences Campus, which I had never been to before, to hear a presentation by one of my professor’s collaborators on Time as the Fourth Dimension of Cancer Complexity. It was really fascinating, and it definitely gave me new ideas to think about. Additionally, my internship last summer at Oregon Health & Science University was a direct result of my research at USC: the team I worked with at OHSU closely collaborates with my professor here. Through that internship I was able to co-author my first publication. You can read more about my summer internship here: http://viterbivoices.usc.edu/juliana/my-summer-internship-modeling-cell-movement/ and you can read my publication here: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0073063
4. It’s great to talk about in an interview, a great way to get a letter of recommendation, and great to put on your resume.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. I definitely don’t think you should do research solely for these reasons, but they are an added bonus. If you’re genuinely interested and involved in whatever you’re researching, it becomes very easy to talk about your work passionately. Hands-on experience is always a good thing to have, especially when you can learn new skills through your project, and be able to demonstrate how your work has helped you grow as a person and how you were able to contribute to a team effort. In my personal opinion, research is one of the best ways to prepare yourself for the demands of an internship or job.
5. You can have a lot of fun and feel like you’re making a difference in the world!
Attending my lab meetings every Monday is honestly something I look forward to. I like feeling that my work is contributing to a larger goal, and I’m happy to be able to help my team in it’s own unique fight against cancer. I have another friend who is doing Computer Science research, working on creating a user-friendly app that will help people who require wheelchairs by finding the best possible chair design for an individual. A person’s size and body type can be used to determine the dimensions and design of his or her ideal chair in order to maximize the user’s mobility and independence as much as possible. How cool is that? Honestly, so much of the research being done in Viterbi is designed to improve people’s lives in thousands of different ways, through hundreds and hundreds of different projects. If you think about it, in a lot of ways research is really just another form of community service.
Overall, I see research as a great way to expose yourself to new ideas and new ways of thinking, meet awesome people, and get more involved in the wonderful Viterbi community. Of course, there are plenty of other ways to do this too, so the most important thing is finding which opportunities are right for you. All I’m saying is to at least consider research as one possible option. As always, if you have any questions, let me know.
Have a great week, and Beat the Buffs!