Pursuing Undergraduate Research

Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Chaos

Are you tired of manageable workloads?

Do you have too much free time during summer?

If only there was a solution!

Hi, I’m Michael Meneses, and I’m here to tell you about Undergraduate Research Opportunities, the fast and easy way to add some science to your life! As a Gorman Scholar and proud intern of the Hofmann lab, I want to share my experiences to hopefully convince some of you to give research a shot. Surely there must be some payoff to this whole interning thing, right?

A Sneak Peak

I’m going to say it now: there’s a good chance you have little to no experience in your major. And that’s totally fine. But it definitely brings up a weird and somewhat uncomfortable question: will I even like my major in the future? I spent my whole childhood wanting to be a marine biologist, but every now and then I’d wonder that same question and start to doubt. What if I end up not liking marine research? What will I do then?

Luckily, my time in the Hofmann lab changed that. Yes, research was much harder than I thought it would be. Yes, there’s a lot of reading and mistakes and frustration. Yes, my desk looks like a landfill and I send now more emails than a spambot. BUT, I realized that despite all the stress of the job, I only feel more and more excited about what our next project will be. Maybe you’ll realize just how passionate you are about your major, and an internship will help cement your future. Or maybe you’ll find that your major just isn’t for you, and you’re not looking forward to committing to it. An internship can let you test the waters before you decide to dive in. Which brings me to:

Exploring New Fields

Sticking to a major can be hard. We all know plenty of people who suddenly realized that their major just isn’t working out for them. Maybe their whole life has been dedicated to majoring in this one specific (and probably impacted) field. Or maybe they just don’t have a plan for their future yet. Wherever you fit in within this spectrum, taking advantage of a research opportunity can help you find a new direction for your future, even if that direction points far, far away from research. 

I’ve been gung-ho about studying marine biology my whole life, but I didn’t really have any concrete plans beyond “doing research”. Honestly, I was kind of hoping that things would sort themselves out after college and I’d go with the flow. My time with Gorman and the Hofmann lab have changed that for the better by exposing me to the active and chaotic communities in research and giving me the professional and lab skills needed to carve my own place in it. Taking an internship can spark a new passion in you, or open a new door into a field you thought you knew inside and out. Even if you decide you don’t like this new field or decide not to pursue a research degree, an internship is a great way to explore any wild scientific fantasies you might have.

And More!

I’m only grazing the tip of the iceberg here. I unfortunately don’t have the time or space in this post to tell you all the different ways you can benefit from an internship. Even if I listed off all the ways my internship has helped me, I couldn’t guarantee that they’d all apply to you. Every lab will have their own problems, approaches and procedures, as well as different people suffering through all of them. Each experience during an internship will be unique and could end up taking you in a new, exciting direction you might not find otherwise.