Undergraduate Research at Vanderbilt
For the past 2 and a half years of my college career, I have been working in a structural biology lab for credit. The various departments at Vanderbilt each have their own way of incorporating undergraduate research into their curriculum, whether they be science or humanities related. I am currently in the process of concluding this semester’s research with an 11-18 page research paper along with a 12 minute PowerPoint presentation.
I do research in the lab of Dr. Gerald Stubbs who was one of my BSCI 110a Introduction to the Biological Science professors during my first semester freshman year. I actually did horribly on his first test, but after that figured out how to study and managed to do very well on all the following exams.
I met another undergraduate, Joe, working in the lab and talked to him about what he and the other undergraduates did. I discovered that Dr. Stubbs trusts and encourages undergraduate research, but was still nervous about approaching him due to my first test score.
However, Joe had told him about my interest in doing research and Dr. Stubbs emailed me. He encouraged me to reach out to professors at Vanderbilt and told me that if I wanted I could start out in his lab and then decide whether or not structural biology was for me. So the following semester, I enrolled in BSCI 280 Introduction to Research. Since then, I’ve stuck with the Stubbs Lab and have enjoyed it immensely! It has been a great opportunity to understand what research is really like and to see whether I enjoy doing it (which I definitely do!).
Now I am in BSCI 286 Independent Research and have to write this crazy long research paper on amyloids (say what?) and even present my work in front of several professors and undergraduates. It is extremely nerve-wrecking, from my perspective…but it is good practice for what would be expected in graduate school!
What I’m trying to say is…talk to your professors! Be proactive and see if there is a place for you in their research, no matter which department you come from!
Check out a few slides from my BSCI 286 presentation last semester: