Mizzou is one of the major research institutions in the US. And the undergraduate research opportunity program (UROP) at Mizzou, unlike most classroom experiences, allows students to explore the unknown through hands-on work with faculty mentors. Catherine Seidu, a Ghanaian student studying Neuroscience at Mizzou, has matured from a Freshman researcher, to now, a senior leading her own projects and presenting her research at symposiums. Below she shares her insights and tips for students interested in participating in university research programs.
What motivated you to participate in Mizzou’s Undergraduate Research Program?
Upon admission to the University of Missouri, Columbia, I was offered a scholarship with the Mathematics in Life Sciences fellowship. One of the requirements of the fellowship was participating in an undergraduate research program during the summer after our freshman year.There were several motivating factors that helped me decide to participate in an undergraduate research internship:
- To satisfy my curiosity since I had always wondered what working in a research lab entailed
- To enhance my chances of gaining admission into a doctoral or master’s degree program upon graduation from my undergraduate training.
- I could also obtain a strong letter of recommendation from my research supervisor if he/she gets to know me on either a professional or personal level.
Above all, I wanted to experience what research scientists did in the lab. I was fascinated by the results obtained from the strategic mixing of chemicals; by the wide array of information available in the form of published scientific papers; and by the need for more research in several other areas that have yet to be explored.
What have been the greatest benefits of participating in the program?
Being currently in charge of a research project, I have a concrete idea of what research scientists do on a daily basis. I have had to read and understand research papers and have also learned how to search for information pertaining only to my area of interest.
I have also learned the importance of accuracy in running and designing experiments. Furthermore, I have worked alongside several graduate students and have learned a lot from them, making some good friends in the process.
I currently work with another undergraduate student and of course my mentor. Forming professional relationships/connections with my research supervisor and mentor and with other graduate and undergraduate students in the lab is one of the benefits. Moreover, the valuable research experience which I have gained adds a lot more perspective to my life.
My experience has also taught me that there is more to college than just going to class and getting good grades. I have gone from participating in a research internship, to working as a research assistant in three different lab- one in computer science, another in Plant Biology and the other in Neuroscience- where I currently am.
Where have you presented your research?
I have had the opportunity to present my research at various avenues/ programs on Campus. I did present to other research participants and faculty at the end of my summer internship in 2012. I also presented during the undergraduate research Spring Forum at Monsanto auditorium in 2014.
I had the opportunity to also present my project at the Advancing Neuroscience symposium attended by several distinguished people in neuroscience research. I am due to present my current research at the Health Science research Day at the School of Medicine in November.
What would you tell other international students interested in research about the undergraduate research program?
I would say if you have the slightest interest in any kind of research, find a lab to volunteer/work in. Sometimes, you may not even know if research is for you but it thus help to try it out. There are several labs on campus that do research in various specialties. You may gain experience in a lab that mixes chemicals in search of results; one that works with mice, rabbits and even microorganisms; or one that does nothing of the above, working instead with computers or people.
Most undergraduate research opportunities will equip you with the tools needed to enhance your research skills which would make you a more competitive applicant to graduate programs and even jobs in the future especially as an international student.
Visit the Undergrad Research Opportunity Program (UROP) website to learn more about UROP at Mizzou. Or, if you are ready to apply you can do so by downloading the application or apply online. In the meantime, stay connected with us on Facebook and Twitter!