My freshman year, I participate in the Life Sciences Freshman Research Scholars program. That's a mouthful, I know. Now, to their credit, they did try to make the transition into research as easy as possible. They have a class to teach you how to write proposals and a finished article. However, as someone who had minimal lab experience in high school, I had NO IDEA what I was doing.
Starting research as a freshman was a little terrifying, and it was difficult. I hadn't been a lab before, I didn't know what the equipment was, or how to use it. I didn't even truly understand what I was studying. I share this, not to scare anyone away from research, but to let those know they are not alone. I fumbled my way through the entire year. It was intimidating because it seemed like everyone, including the other person who was in my same exact lab, knew more than I did. It was difficult too, to keep up with while doing classwork and trying to balance a social life. However, the experience brought so much more than this. We're all tired of hearing me complain, yes? Good because now comes the good stuff.
I love bragging on my mentor. I wouldn't tell him this to his face, but he's a very adorable adult who has encouraged me so much. He gets as excited as I do when I finally understand a concept and have that "lightbulb" moment. He's a blessing. Okay, moving on from gushing, and on a more serious note, by working with him as a freshman, I have opened more opportunities for myself. My mentor has been very patient. While I had no idea what I was doing, he was eager to teach me about what we were studying, and what everything was in the lab. During my first year, we were just trying to get me through my project. Now? I am working for him, and have a grant that pays me to stay in lab and work. I am learning about concepts that I won't hear in class for another year at least. Additionally, I surprise us both with how quickly I've adapted to the lab and procedures. I am making solutions, and prepping DNA samples, and I'm getting a lot of experience.
The point of sharing this? Research is hard, but even though it took me a year to understand it and get my feet under me, it has been rewarding. I'm gaining confidence inside and outside of the lab, as well as building my resumé. I have gotten to join OKLSAMP (a minority group that aids with scholarships, internships, and conferences) and I am getting a stipend early as I became involved so early. I am going to be ahead in classes. I am going to have a lot of experience and that is going to make applying for jobs and internships much easier. So at the end of the day, I recommend applying for research and seeking out mentors. Getting involved offers an advantage and opportunities beyond, well, not doing so.
Thank you for reading, and I hope my experience offers encouragement while you make your own memories.