Becoming an Undergraduate Researcher

Being a UCSB student comes with many perks. From a beautiful campus to dedicated professors and everything in between, we really do live, study, and thrive in paradise. Endless opportunities wait behind every door; all we need to do is find them- or in my case, let them find me.

My freshman year I attended a seminar regarding the importance of undergraduate research. The speakers mentioned that we were lucky to attend one of the nation’s top research universities (whatever that meant). I was busy worrying about my classes, transitioning from being away from home, and trying to survive crossing the bike paths between classes, so trying to add research on top of that felt a bit overwhelming. Little did I know that within two years I would be part of one of the most well-known national undergraduate research programs, the McNair Scholars Program.

Now, everyone has their own story as to how they began their journey as an undergraduate researcher, but I consider mine to be anything but ordinary. Winter quarter of my second year I was enrolled in Linguistics 131: Sociolinguistics with Professor Mary Bucholtz. At the time, I had no idea that this course would change my entire undergraduate experience. I attended every lecture and actively participated in class discussions to the point where she learned my name, a proud feat for a beginning linguistics major. Impressed with my performance in her class, Professor Bucholtz offered me an internship. Without a second thought I agreed and soon I had become a mentor for her outreach program School Kids Investigating Language in Life and Society (SKILLS). I was proud of beginning an internship before the end of my second year, but nothing could have prepared me for what was to come next.

As the year drew to a close, I thought that would be the end of my relationship with Professor Bucholtz, but, boy, was I wrong. Late in spring quarter she suggested that I look into the McNair Scholars Program. After exploring the McNair website and keeping the words of the panelists from the year before at the back of my mind, I agreed to apply. After a rigorous application process I received the results: I was accepted! That marked the beginning of my experience as an undergraduate researcher.

Based on my experiences, I have two pieces of advice for prospective researchers. First, professors are your friends! They are crucial to getting involved in research, so let them know who you are. Secondly, if opportunity comes knocking on your door, roll with it. One thing can lead to another and before you know it, you will be doing things you never dreamed you would be doing. Take it from me, I had no idea how I was going to become involved in research, and looking back I’m still in disbelief. Now, I look forward to seeing what else the future has in store for me.