I conduct undergraduate research with the Haptics Robotics and Virtual Interaction (HaRVI) lab on campus. The lab explores how humans interact with technology through touch. The HaRVI lab is in the department of Computer Science, which is outside my major of mechanical engineering. Although the lab director has degrees in mechanical engineering, I’m one of the only mechanical engineering majors in the entire lab.
I was initially nervous to inquire about possible research opportunities in the lab because I have very limited computer science knowledge. However, I emailed the lab director my resume and told her why I was interested in her lab. I also looked over the lab’s website and read about other projects happening in the lab to see what I was interested in. I am very interested in robotics and have actually had experience creating pneumatic actuators in high school, which was a part of some of the projects in their lab. Now I work in the lab with pneumatic actuators and am becoming more comfortable writing code and doing hardware related tasks.
For anyone trying to get started in research who is interested in a topic but might not have much experience in it, I encourage you to study the lab’s website and see if there’s anything at all you have exposure to or experience with. Also, think of ways to optimize the experience you have with problem solving or organization. I think some of the most important skills needed for undergraduate research end up being organizational skills, resourcefulness, time management, and the ability to stay motivated and ask for help.
Additionally, when I joined my lab, I was given a lot of scientific articles and resources in order to learn more about haptics robotics and virtual interaction. There’s absolutely no need to be completely knowledgeable about a topic before you start research. I have learned a lot during my couple of months as an undergraduate researcher. It is certainly possible to do research in other departments in Viterbi, and even outside of Viterbi, just show your enthusiasm and willingness to learn!