The Insider on Undergraduate Research

Portrait photograph of transfer Goodnight Scholar Britanya Wright of the Class of 2021.

My undergraduate research journey started in the summer of 2019 with the smell of roasted coffee as it enveloped the air while I hastily walked down to my first training in the clean room at the NC State Nanofabrication Lab.

Clothed in white protective gear from head to toe, I began the process of learning. I hovered over three beakers filled with various chemicals as I meticulously transferred material from one beaker to the next. I then flashed to endless papers, scraping of unworkable devices, and victorious accomplishments.

While these are some of the many research opportunities I have experienced, one thing is relatively common among all: the immense level of knowledge that is gained.

As an undergraduate student, doing research has aided me in building many facets of my life. For me, learning took on a whole new meaning when I spent many days in the lab to improve device fabrication. Learning became not just late-night studying for the midterm exam, or the formation of small study groups, or even the attendance of regularly scheduled classes. Learning became a developing desire to gain knowledge about a topic that was beyond the classroom. Research learning is the application of all the knowledge I acquired from the classroom.

Learning formed into the soaking up of never-ending research articles, experimentation, trial and error, and constant “alright back to the drawing board.”

In retrospect, I never truly understood the level of academic and mental growth I would undergo by being a part of undergraduate research.

In conjunction with learning of new concepts, I gained an insight into my future through undergraduate research. Being an undergraduate student, among many things that I ponder, I often contemplated the path or concentration I wished to take within my major. Researching allowed me to gain unmistakable connections with various professors within and outside my major who gave me insight into the world of electrical engineering. Developing and improving something overtime through research really helps you to either foster a love for that topic or end up disliking that topic altogether. Research is where my passion for learning and the field of robotics grows.

I have found that the main objective behind undergraduate research is to create an environment where young minds can flourish and think beyond just mere textbooks, paper, and pencil; it is filled with a pool of growing knowledge waiting to be discovered.

“Research is formalized curiosity,” said Zora Neale Hurston. “It is poking and prying with a purpose.”

In retrospect, I never truly understood the level of academic and mental growth I would undergo by being a part of undergraduate research. In various instances, I was able to build my resume by attending and participating in undergraduate research seminars and presentations. Currently, I am a part of a research opportunity working with wearable medical devices in addition to my classes. Ever since the summer of 2019, I never stopped exploring the research world.

Here’s the real question: Would I recommend undergraduate research to other students pondering whether to pursue that path or not?

Yes, times a million more yeses.

Through undergraduate research, I found passion in learning at my own pace under a professor who was extremely passionate about what they do and who was more than willing to help me grow and learn. I learned how to learn beyond the scope of a classroom; learning in the research world has taught me how to apply what is learned from simple mathematical equations and derivations. Through research, I made influential connections that will travel with me beyond graduation and even into the world beyond the walls of NC State.

Photography credit: Jason Perry/Goodnight Scholars Program