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Being a new freshman can be very intimidating. ASU is one of the largest public research universities in the country, where anything is possible. Fulfilling your dreams can start as soon as your first semester — the key is to know where to start.
Research is one of the greatest resources for undergraduate students. As a chemical engineering major, I’ve noticed that most internships and employers I’m interested in are looking for prior experience, and research is the perfect way to get your foot in the door.
I started volunteering in a lab as a freshman after a conversation with one of my professors. I had found a research description online that I was interested in and contacted the professor for a meeting to learn more. By the end of our meeting, she had offered me the chance to get involved. I was lucky that her lab had an opening, but if someone says they can’t add another team member, don’t get discouraged. It just takes the right opportunity!
If you’re not taking a class with the professor whose work you are interested in, you can reach out to them online. Each engineering discipline has a webpage devoted to the professors in that field and their research.
For me, the initial workload in the lab was light. Getting into the lab a few times a month to familiarize myself with the equipment was the norm. The professors were extremely collaborative, instructive and supportive, so if you fear you aren’t ready or knowledgeable enough for research, you will have help to fill the gaps. Undergraduate students also work under the guidance of graduate students, who are available for questions and training in the lab when needed.
I’m in my junior year now, and research has opened an endless number of opportunities to me. I feel qualified and confident when applying for internships and co-ops. This year I’m earning a semester stipend for continuing research through the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative, or FURI. It’s a great opportunity that benefits the students, professors, and the university.
While ASU has a ton of paths you can take, getting involved in research was essential to narrowing down my passions and finding my niche. And research is not just for engineering students. Most colleges have research opportunities — reach out to a professor whose work you’re interested in or go to their office hours to learn more about their work and ask how you can help.
Victoria Lanz is a third year chemical engineering student at Arizona State University. She is currently enrolled in the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative, working on reducing the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing. In her free time Victoria loves to spend time with her cat, travel outdoors and write for her blog vixvida.com. After graduation, she hopes to use her skill set to volunteer internationally, and continue growing her blog through writing.
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