It is not uncommon for first year students to be involved in faculty research. I wish I had known a bit more about the robust research opportunities before coming to Swat because the very fact that freshmen are able to engage in this work really speaks to the inclusive campus environment, wide array of beyond the classroom learning experiences that all of us are able to utilize, and, last but certainly not least, equip students with grants and financial support to allow students to develop their personal interests in the field of study that resonates most with them.
I recall hearing during the first several months on campus students mentioning their research that they were involved with the summer beforehand. The conversations like, “I traveled across the country to do science research in the biome that my professor and I are studying,” or, another student mentioning that she “had two chances to do full-time, paid research on campus throughout the summer,” were not as rare as one would think. As it turns out, the nearly one million dollars in student research endowment is certainly used by many Swatties. One current junior shared:
“I would say to any incoming students to definitely take advantage of the chance to do research on campus. So many of us do it. I was shy, but went to a Chemistry department event during my first semester and approached one of the faculty members about the chance to help with their study, and have been with that prof. ever since!”
But what if you are not interested in pipetting a viral specimen for several hours daily in the summer like myself or others? Well, fortunately the extensive humanities and social science research opportunities are an alternative! Personally, I was impressed when I first scanned through this list of summer grants because of the particular focus on summer research endeavors that extend well beyond natural science disciplines.
To sum up, I would recommend a first few steps to consider when you are just getting to campus and have research as a possible avenue to further explore.
- Take the intro classes in the discipline you want to do research in. Though for some this seems like a given, it continued to come up when speaking to fellow Swatties that have done summer research. When professors are looking for first year students to possibly assist in their lab or with research, you can assume that the question about classes that you took during the first year will come up.
- Ask your advisor. From one of the first meetings with your academic advisor, I would ask them about advice that they might have for first year students looking to get involved with research.
- Ask around. Don’t be hesitant to ask someone in your dorm, on your team, or anyone that you might feel could help provide input about the process. Chances are, they will likely have done research in the summer or at the least know someone who has done research with a professor.
I hope to publish a separate blog post detailing my own summer research experience on campus, but I wanted to lay out a more overarching summary and recommendation for this process. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about research at Swat or life at Swarthmore in general!