One thing that I recommend for everyone is doing some research in college. No, not research papers or anything that you may not want to do! When I say research, I am talking about all stages of research. From gathering data to proofreading articles—these are all steps of research. Wash U, as you may already know, has a strong emphasis on research. Whether you are a science major or an International Studies major like me, there is always some research project for you! Below, I discuss two research opportunities that I have had so far on campus.
When I first started college, I never imaged doing any research in college. I was under the impression that research is only for science students (aka for biology or chemistry majors). It was not until the summer before sophomore year when I realized that there are other types of research out there! One of my professors emailed his class over the summer to ask for a research assistant during the fall semester for his course. After reading over the email, I was originally shocked that there are opportunities available for humanities majors like myself. I responded saying that I was interested in assisting him. After a week or so, I heard back saying that there are around five students who have been selected to be research assistants. So, out of nowhere, I became involved in research on campus without actively seeking for the opportunity. How great is that?
In the fall, I was assigned two specific projects. The main work included gathering data and matching the information with pictures. It was nothing like I imagined research to be. There were no lab experiments or annoying surveys to conducts. I actually enjoyed reading over primary sources and typing up paragraphs online.
Prior to this current semester, I decided to again see what research opportunities were available to me. As a junior, I am not yet in the stage to write an honor thesis (in fact, I haven’t even started thinking that far yet!). In my prime major’s department, there is a course called Directed Research for IAS. This is specifically designed for International and Area Studies majors. Students in the class will be assigned to a specific professor to assist them with their research project. In the course description, it says the following:
“Research assistants learn valuable skills and gain practical experience working on IAS-affiliated faculty research projects. All IAS students are encouraged to apply, but the program will be especially beneficial for Sophomores and Juniors who are planning to write a senior thesis. Students will be assigned to work on a faculty research project and will be expected to provide five hours of research work per week to the project. In addition, students will meet for weekly workshops where we will introduce multidisciplinary research perspectives, skills, and resources. Students must complete a separate application and be approved by the instructor to enroll.”
Since I was thinking about an honors thesis, I decided to take this course to learn more about the research opportunities and process. This semester, I am helping a professor in the Political Science Department with two of his projects. One of them required me to do revise 1,200 text files examining collegiality on the U.S. Supreme Court. The other (which I am working on right now) is on researching the effect of amicus curiae briefs in federal court decisions.
Similar to my first experience, I was not actively seeking to become a research assistant because I mainly just wanted to find out more about research at Wash U in general. However, I am so happy that I took this course (which is also a 400 level course!). It has helped me explore an area that I would have otherwise never step foot into (aka Poly Sci). Moreover, the weekly workshops are so useful because I have learned more about funding, opportunities, and how to effectively use databases.
If you are even remotely interested in research or want to find out more about it, do not hesitate to reach out to your professors! Even sending an email can lead to awesome opportunities. In addition, I recommend checking out the Wash U website for research here: https://wustl.edu/research/
I hope this helps!