I am a freshman here at NJIT, and I’m finishing up my first year of college. A concern I wanted to raise with you is regarding finding research experience. It seems as if everyone around me is involved in some sort of project!
I would like to be involved in research too, but I do not know where to start. Who do I contact? Where do I go? How do I find research that is aligned with my own interests?
I definitely feel the pressure to do something to boost my resume and hit the ground running. A final concern I have is whether not having much work experience is considered “okay” for an outgoing college freshman. Thanks for listening. I look forward to your advice.
You are in luck just! The best thing about NJIT is that it is a smaller research institution, meaning there is a smaller pool of students competing for research positions and a surplus of research opportunities. That said, getting involved in research at NJIT is as easy as 1-2-3!
First, figure out what your research interests are. Is there a specific subject you are interested in investigating more in-depth? e.g. the effects of alcohol on the brain? If you’re unsure of your interests, look at your department’s website and read about the faculty members’ research. Feel free to look at other departments’ websites as well. You never know—you might be more interested in the research of a faculty member from another department than that of your own department.
Once you find a faculty member whose work interests you, send them an email to schedule a meeting. In the body of the email, you should state specifically your interest in the faculty member’s research, explain the importance of research for your career goals, and provide the dates and times that you will be available.
Additionally, it is recommended that you attach a resume to the email so that the faculty member has an idea of your experience prior to your meeting with them.
If after reading about the faculty members’ research, there is no research being done on the subject you are interested in, you can always do an independent research project and ask a faculty member with relevant background if they would be interested in advising your project. (Usually, they are happy to lend a helping hand!)
To receive funding for your independent research project, I highly recommend that you apply to the Undergraduate Research and Innovation (URI) Student Seed Grant program. As you are just starting your research project, I would begin with applying for a Phase-1 grant of $500. Once you prove the concept and feasibility of your project, you may then apply for a Phase-2 grant of $3000.
Briefly, at the beginning of each semester, there will be a call for proposals for URI seed grants. Simply complete the application provided on the URI website and submit it to Angela Retino by the deadline. Within a few weeks, you will be notified if you are chosen as a finalist for the grant. If you qualified, you will give a presentation in front of the URI External Advisory Board (EAB). After a few more weeks, you will be notified once more if the EAB has decided to award you with a seed grant.
Remember: even if you do not win a Seed Grant the first time you apply, you can still conduct your research project, and you can always try again next semester!
Finally, you are still a freshman. There are three years before graduation. You should not feel pressured to gain work experience right off the bat. Take your time and decide what you’d like to do rather than rushing into things. After all, quality matters more than quantity. Even if you are working on five different research projects, at the end of the day, if you are not doing well academically, you won’t be able to go far. Prioritize academics above all else, and if you are capable of handling more, take on whatever you can and put your best effort into it.
I hope you will find this advice helpful, and I wish you the best of luck in your future pursuits!
A Fellow Highlander
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