By: Nina Pelsi, DePaul University health sciences major ’19
Once I landed my first internship freshman year, I was ecstatic. As part of DePaul’s Undergraduate Summer Research Program (USRP) of the College of Science and Health, I was chosen to work with a former professor of mine, Dr. Kim Amer, who I respect immensely. With decades of experience working as a registered nurse, Dr. Amer had extensive advice and knowledge in science and medicine to offer.
So, what did I learn from my first research position? Managing expectations is key. Here is what you should (and shouldn’t) expect from your first scientific research experience:
1. Don’t expect to change the world or cure cancer. I’m not trying to burst your bubble, but this is unlikely to be the research that catapults you into fame and success in science. Instead, expect to learn a lot about the research process itself, and you will come away with boatloads of applicable knowledge on how to find what you’re looking for and present it in a meaningful way.
2. Expect to sift through dozens and dozens of unrelated and possibly unhelpful articles before finding one that aligns with what you’re looking for. Throughout this entire summer, Dr. Amer and I only found 20 articles to analyze for our review of literature. This is normal! Remember, quality trumps quantity in scientific research.
3. Expect it to be challenging and time-consuming, but equally—if not more—rewarding. Research is very much a process; it’s going to take a long time to conduct initial research, compile the information into figures and/or charts, interpret and analyze results, draw conclusions, and put together a written, oral, or visual display. This last step is when you finally get to see that all of your hard work has paid off, and it is one of the best feelings!
Good luck! I hope this advice helps you mentally prepare for your research position and get the very most out of your experience.