The Undergraduate Research Experience

As an undergraduate, I was given a fantastic research experience.  Beginning my first semester of freshman year, I worked with Dr. Dan Jones to do work with x-ray crystallography.  Dr. Jones was an incredible mentor of a caliber that I aspire to reach one day, spending hours each day to teach me the intricacies of data collection and analysis as well as the theories underlying our work.  I completed an undergraduate honors thesis under his supervision, and we published several papers together.

And when I realized that my true research passion was in psychology, Dr. Jones continued to mentor me as I cut back research hours in chemistry in favor of beginning work with Dr. Arnie Cann in psychology.  Dr. Cann patiently taught me how to use psychological software (SPSS, SONA, etc) and he continually offered me access to data and projects that allowed me to practice my new-found skills.

Dr. Cann and Dr. Jones continue to be fantastic mentors even now, several years after I’ve graduated.  Dr. Cann and I continue to work on publications and conference presentations, and Dr. Jones and I make a point of getting together for pizza and conversation whenever I return to the Charlotte area.

The research experience that I had with both of these incredible mentors inspired me to pursue graduate education and careers in academia.  I had, when I started graduate school, and I still continue to have the lofty goal of being a Dr. Jones and/or Dr. Cann to students of my own.  I want to work closely with them, to get them excited about research, to teach them new techniques that I’ve been so excited to learn, and to help them pursue their goals.

To say that it’s a hefty goal to want to fill the shoes of such mentoring experts would be an understatement.

But I’m trying…

Over the summer and the fall, I worked closely with two undergraduate research assistants, Shawnna Mencias and Brian Singh.  Both are incredibly talented, eager to learn, have fantastic skills for interacting with people, and have incredible eyes for detail.  They were involved in every step of my dissertation process from recruitment to data checking, but they shined the most brightly in their data collection skills.  The three of us worked together to collect data on nearly 70 4-year-old children together.  If I want to be a Dr. Jones or Cann, I know that my work with these two is far from over.  I look forward to publishing with them, presenting with them, helping them to pursue further education, and otherwise keeping in touch with them in the future.  But, for now, I wanted to share a couple of pictures of their hard work.

Shawnna administering the PPVT!
Shawnna’s first poster!


Brian administering the KBIT!

How about you, Blogsters?  Do you have any undergraduates that you’d like to brag on?  Any tips for providing them with good mentorship?

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