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Humans of the U: Kishan Thambu

“Participating in undergraduate research has taught me how to be realistic with deadlines and how to manage school work, extracurriculars, and work outside of school. It taught me work-life balance. These are skills that as an aspiring physician-scientist, who wants to research and practice medicine, will be very important to my future career.

I thought getting research experience early on would be a good way to not only learn the nuances of research but also to learn how to complete my own projects. And I wanted to get mentorship that would support my research ideas. ­

So far, I’ve been a part of three labs, including one in high school. Participating in research provides a lot of opportunities for critical thinking and understanding that you don’t get in the classroom. You are forced to dive deep into very specific topics that are applicable to real-life problems. You also gain a better understanding of how to solve problems in a research setting than you do within the limits of a classroom. When doing research, it’s OK if you don’t know something as long as you are willing to put in the time and effort to understand what previous research and papers have explored and what you can do differently to add to the body of knowledge.

For me, it’s been really interesting to get that hands-on experience. I love learning about controlling your project and refining the methodology of our experiments with the question we’re asking since research is such a dynamic process. This will help me as I continue to do research, especially as I do my own projects in the future. I will be prepared to create good procedures and experiments.

It doesn’t matter what department or field you’re studying in, if you are interested in research, I highly recommend learning about the work the faculty in that department are doing and seeing what intrigues you. Reach out to the faculty member doing that work and go from there. They may have a project they are accepting undergraduate students to work on and you could be a part of that project. Sometimes, faculty members can start a new project just for you. 

It’s really useful to set up a meeting with the person you want to work with to better understand their lab and share what you personally want to get out of research. It helps you know if it will be a good fit and they may redirect you to another faculty member who’s better suited for your needs and interests. 

Just talking to professors and faculty members is so key in getting started in research, because most of them are willing to take on students as long as you’re dedicated. As long as you find the right fit, I think starting research early on can be really beneficial and less daunting than it may seem.

It’s important to acknowledge that imposter syndrome can surface from time to time as it definitely has for me. There is always unknown even when you know a lot about an area, but that’s the beauty of research. Because there’s so much unknown, I have developed skills such as persistence, patience, and curiosity. My experience in research has taught me that a successful researcher explains any methodology or results with clear intent and justifiable reasoning.”

— Kishan Thambu, a senior majoring in computer science