When I decided to attend the University of Illinois, I knew that I wanted to get involved with research as soon as possible.
As a psychology major, I kept hearing from professors and advisors about the vast number of opportunities that were available for undergraduates that would help me build a better understanding for what to do with the rest of my life.
During my first month as a freshman, I decided to spend an afternoon at the Psychology Research Fair, where I was able to hear graduate students and professors pitch their research projects and their lab availabilities. By the end of the day, my bag was filled with papers describing application deadlines and responsibilities for various research labs.
Surprisingly, this was not how I landed a research assistantship job — it was actually through visiting with professor Tom Kwapil, who gave a brief talk on his research before a panel of graduate students spoke about their own experiences. If it weren’t for the panel of psychology students hosted by the Department of Psychology, I would have never been given the opportunity to work in, what is in my opinion, the best research lab at the university.
Not only do I play an active role in collecting data samples and ensuring that the research runs smoothly, but I equally learn about topics ranging from schizotypy and schizophrenia to affective disorders and bipolar disorder. Through lab meetings and preparation sessions, I have been able to exchange ideas and hypotheses with graduate students, fellow undergraduate, lab assistants, medical students, and of course, Professor Kwapil himself.
The consistent exposure to students and mentors of varying backgrounds gives me the confidence to seek answers to questions on clinical scales, measures, studies, and articles that push me toward wanting to make a difference in the field of psychology, whether it be creating a new scale to measure a heterogeneous disorder or running a study that measures daily emotions in certain populations.
Research knows no bounds at the University of Illinois. It gives all students an equal opportunity to pursue subjects of interest while also learning how to conduct studies, labs, and research proposals that could one day help demystify a certain aspect of the world we live in.