Getting started in researching can be somewhat intimidating, both if if you have had previously experience as well as if you haven’t. There are tons of different kinds of research out there in different topics and using all kinds of methodology. And if you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for, you can always pave the way! The first piece of advice that I would give to people who are getting started in research is to think about what general topic you want to study. Whether that be history, biology, public health or economics, it’s useful to begin thinking about the areas that interest you most. The next step is to reach out to someone and begin talking about research. One of the easiest ways to do this is to pop into office hours for a class you’re taking and talk with your professor about what research they are doing and what research in their field looks like. Having these types of conversations with give you a better sense of how research works in different areas and whether or not it might be the right fit for you. Actually getting involved in research varies by department and field, but the Honors College and other organizations at Pitt have a ton of great resources to help you get your project started.
I got started in research very early on in my undergraduate career, studying the history of medicine. My current project though, which is going to be my BPhil thesis, started in my second semester sophomore year and applying for the Brackenridge Fellowship. I had found my research mentor, Dr. Niklas Frykman, through a history class I had been taking in my first year and we had been working together since then. Although Dr. Frykman is not a historian of medicine, he is trained in American history and has been a great resource for teaching me how to study historical topics and develop my craft as a historian. As I plan to pursue a career in academia, this training will be extremely useful as I continue to grow as a historian. Career-wise I plan on attending an MD-PhD program and becoming both a practicing physician as well as a researcher/educator.
This semester of research was a unique experience for me. I focused on heavily secondary source reading. My thesis focuses on how Jewish social organizations worked to provide healthcare opportunities for Pittsburgh’s immigrant community in the 20th century. In order to prepare myself for the archival research that I am going to do this summer, my goal was to learn as much as possible about Pittsburgh, the Jewish community and social life in Pittsburgh during the 20th century. This will set me up to extensively study my research topic over the summer by having the background knowledge necessary to make sense of it all. I have also been getting in touch with some local Jewish organizations, such as Rodef Shalom, and figuring out ways to utilize the resources that they have available. My perception of research has definitely been broadened as I continue to see all of the different aspects of research that are necessary when creating a project such as a BPhil.
One of the things that I appreciate most about CURF and the Honors College in general is the wealth of resources that they have to support their students. The financial award is significant in that it allowed me to dedicate a lot of my time to researching and not have to worry about working a part-time job. This made it more possible for me to get done the work that I needed to do, without having to worry about other distractions. Another resource that came from this fellowship is the people that you have to network. Speaking with other CURF researchers as well as people in the Honors College such as Dr. Say was extremely useful in developing my ideas and project. The Honors College and fellowships such as CURF provide you with the resources and support that you need to be successful in your research. Now that the semester has come to a close, I will begin my archival work and begin working on my BPhil thesis to be defended next spring semester!
So if you’re interested in getting started in research, start asking around. Figure out what your interested in and connect with people to learn about research. Research can be exciting and allow you to learn more about what you’re passionate about. I know it can be somewhat intimidating to get started but Pitt has a ton of great resources to do so. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me or the Honors College to learn more!
The featured image for this blog post is the Rodef Shalom Congregation, one of the organizations that is the focus of my research and I am looking forward to working with closer this summer!