The other day in class, we were talking about what we’d change about higher education. My comment was that I would want there to be more sort of undefined credit hours you could take. As I was talking, I realized, duh! That’s just undergraduate research! So, shortly after starting school, most undergraduate students become aware of the existence of undergraduate research. What is undergraduate research all about? It’s an opportunity for a student to find out more about a subject in which he/she is interested, as well as to learn more about him or herself. Undergraduate research opportunities arise throughout the university, but many of the opportunities are in the sciences/engineering.
At UVA, there was this program interested in the Chesapeake Bay preservation. If you’re a biology or chemistry major, this research project might allow you to explore water quality problems in select areas of the Bay watershed or the population density of an endangered species present in that watershed. The research experience will likely allow you to determine whether you would be a good candidate for a graduate degree or if that topic really interested you. It can also help you find an area to focus your research in further. Undergraduate research in the area of alternative energy helped me decide to do power for graduate school. It’s not exactly alternative energy, but without my work, alternative energy can’t be introduced the grid viably.