Attending a large research university like Emory, there are plenty of opportunities to partake in research. Most often, first-year undergraduates enter the institution eager to join a lab and partake in research. Wise upperclassmen know that is easier said than done. Once upon a time, I was an eager first year at Emory searching for the same opportunities. Along the way, I discovered that dedicating myself to a lab was not the only way to express my love for science or contribute to research. Volunteering my time as a participant in various studies around campus was a great way to feel involved and learn more about my own interests.
Labs and research groups advertise for volunteers all around campus. I was interested in the idea of contributing to a study that had the potential to help millions of other people in the future. Sometimes, service is not volunteering at the hospital or pulling out weeds at a community garden. Anytime you take time out of your day for a cause greater than yourself, it is a service to others.
Participating in research studies also helped me find what I was interested in studying. I found myself leaning towards many psychology and sociology based labs because I was intrigued by the research they were conducting. I learned about different conditions for which I was unaware of the symptoms and how they affect a person's life. Additionally, reading through the consent forms made me appreciate the thought and time it takes to set up an experimental design and have a project approved. All these research studies made me realize that doing research can be exciting, but the intensive background work was not the lifestyle or career I wanted for myself in the future. I was able to discover this earlier rather than later because of my participation in research studies.
Moreover, research studies provide a plethora of incentives to entice people to volunteer. A gift card or cash for a short thirty-minute survey or test seems like an excellent deal. Studies that have longer time frames for participation have higher amounts of cash. Sometimes, these studies can simply be done through your phone for a period of two weeks to months. We are all on our phones the majority of the time anyway, except this way you make money by answering a few questions. I have received plenty of money or gift cards that helped me buy books or food. Compensation is not only in the form of money either. Biological studies may require blood tests or vital signs. These studies are essentially a free check-up.
Depending on your medical conditions, physical traits, time constraints, and preferences, there will be a research study looking for volunteers of your demographic. Research and science are not only for STEM majors or professors. Being a volunteer in a research study allows you to be a part of the scientific process, not just the person reading the results in a newspaper article later.