Monday, November 3, 2014

URSP Student Caroline Benzel Researches Undergrad Research

What had initially gotten me interested in this project was a lack of opportunities for undergraduates to do research. It seemed like it was a vicious cycle because many times teachers wanted you to have research experience to be involved in their projects, yet one couldn’t get the experience without actually doing research. Further, if one had an opportunity to do research, many times trying to balance a full school schedule, work, and a personal life became quite challenging. But, not doing some type of research and gaining that experience is not an option for many students looking to go to graduate or medical school. Even if the schools do not directly say they want to see research experience on your resume, most of the time they still expect you to have some.

Research is an important resource for students because it gives them a fantastic way to build their resume for graduate schools or other forms of continuing education. But, what is wonderful about what we are trying to create is lets them do that while still gaining credits towards their degrees. As a student hoping to get into a competitive medical school, having something like this on your resume is a priceless tool that can not only give you an upper hand on paper, but makes you grow as an individual and teaches you independent study and time management while also providing you with stories if you were to be interviewed. It is possibly one of the best things for a student to have who is looking to move onto higher education after their undergrad in a competitive world where a even a great GPA and entrance exam score might not be enough. When my friend and fellow peer, Lindsey Cundra, and I had explained all of these things to my former professor, Dr. Reid Schwebach, he had told us of his idea to create an ongoing summer-intensive research opportunity for Mason undergraduates.

Every week Lindsey and I have a meeting with Dr. Schwebach to go over what we have done, where we are at with the project, and what needs to be done by the time of the meeting the following week. Once we have established what we have to do for the next meeting with Dr. Schwebach, Lindsey and I get together and work collaboratively on the project. Though the foundation of what we do for this project is generally looking up past literature or writing about the science or the curriculum, the specific details of what we are looking up or writing changes week to week. Dr. Schwebach, Lindsey and I are in constant contact with each other, whether through email or text. But, this makes it so we always know what is going on or what needs to be done to help push the project along.

This week, the workload was no different. We just were looking up past literature on mycobacteriophage and were looking up curriculums of other schools that have created ongoing research opportunities for students. Further, we created a rough outline of what our curriculum might look like based on a 5-week long semester.