While I never planned to begin my research career during my freshman year, hearing professors discuss research relevant to my field of study inspired me to start pursuing research opportunities early. I initially met my research mentor, Dr. Hong, in the Spring of 2021, while attending Honors Physics 2. Dr. Hong introduced his area of research during a lecture near the end of the school year, and the machine learning project he introduced immediately interested me because it would provide me with experience relevant to my major in a new and exciting field. It would also give me the opportunity to apply my physics and programming knowledge to solve novel problems that have never been solved before. I then emailed him after the semester and expressed my interest in joining his research team, and after finishing a few minor introductory projects in the fall, I joined the team for his machine learning project full-time in the Fall semester.
While I joined the team to apply my school knowledge to real-world problems, one of the most significant outcomes of my research experience has been the ability to apply the skills I gained from research to school. Because my field of study through my research directly relates to my major, some of the concepts and techniques I learned through my research are very relevant in many of my current classes, meaning that my research career is significantly aiding my academic career. Therefore, I would advise any student who is considering starting a research project to start researching as early as possible to ensure that the student can find a research position and to maximize the benefit that the research can have on other areas of study. While a common strategy for finding research is emailing random professors conducting research in the student’s field of study, I would suggest building relationships with professors that teach classes that students attend so that the professor is more likely to accept the student as a researcher because the professor would know that student much better than the professor would know anybody that sends a cold email.
My research directly impacts my professional development due to the real-world engineering experience it provides. As an electrical engineer, I can choose to pursue a more hardware or software-oriented career in the future, and my goal is to experience both before graduating. Therefore, I am trying to participate in as many experiential roles as possible to expose myself to different branches of electrical engineering. For example, I will be working as an electrical engineering co-op for Bayer in a hardware-oriented role from June to December. As a result, my co-op and my research project, which is more software-oriented, complement each other perfectly as I will have had the opportunity to work in both roles before my junior year starts. Discovering the specific aspect of electrical engineering that appeals to me the most early is essential because I can build the rest of my engineering schedule around my favorite electrical engineering topics to better prepare myself for my professional career. Overall, I would highly recommend research as an excellent method of gaining real-world experience early in the academic career, and to get involved as soon as possible to ensure that the student can find a viable research opportunity and start building experience quickly.