Coming into Rice, I definitely knew I wanted to do research here. I remember going to research panels as a “prospie” (prospective student) during Owl Days and hearing about all the wonderful opportunities and ways to start research here. Personally, I really wanted to work off-campus at the Texas Medical Center because I wanted to work in a clinical environment as a premed. I remember continuing to attend other research panels once I started going to Rice. These panels often advertised research opportunities or discussed ways to getting involved. There are emails that you can subscribe to that publicize research opportunities and other programs that you can apply to as well. I find that emailing the principal investigator (PI) of a lab you’re interested in is the most effective and worthwhile way to get involved in research. If the PI is interested in speaking with you, then you usually meet up at their lab and discuss the next steps.
This is how I found my first research opportunity. I worked at a lab in the Neurological Research Institute (NRI) at the medical center. I investigated the effects of certain gene splicing errors on the behavioral, physiological, and neurological components of fruit flies. My lab was another community I found at Rice, and I had my own project to work on independently on my own time. As much as I enjoyed the experience, I realized that this type of research was not for me. I wanted to do more social sciences research and not so much work in a wet lab environment.
A year later, I had a new opportunity to be involved in the Health, Humanism, and Society Scholars Program at Rice’s School of Social Sciences. This program allows students to work on medical humanities research at Texas Medical Center schools. I am still involved in this research now and it has been one of the most interesting and unique experiences I’ve had thus far at Rice. I am studying the moral, ethical, and legal implications of genomics at the Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy. A lot of the work I do is on my computer, coding interviews, writing up literature reviews, and researching case studies. I don’t have to go to the medical center as often, which makes it much more convenient for me. As I’m moving forward with my research, I’m excited (but also a bit nervous!) to present at the Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium this coming April. Not only has this research made me learn new skills and turned me into a more inquisitive and analytical student, but I’ve also realized what my academic interest are. In addition to wanting to go to medical school one day, I also want to go to grad school to study public health.
A lot of people, like me, don’t always stay with the same lab during their four years here. Sometimes it can take a while to find a lab that suits your interests and schedule. Regardless of what kind of research you do, it is a time commitment and you will get the most out of the experience if you put enough effort into it. For example, if you do research for credit, you usually need to put in 9-10 hours a week (equivalent to a 3-credit class at rice). Students can also get paid for their research, which can be extremely rewarding.
Research isn’t for everyone, but if you are slightly interested, I encourage you to try it out. It’s also important to note that at Rice you can do research in all sorts of subjects (sociology, engineering, science, history, etc), so don’t be discouraged to get involved just because you don’t think your major suits it. Just because you’re in a certain major does not mean you can’t do research in another subject area. The kind of research you want to do is super flexible, so I encourage you to take advantage of that. Research has developed me into a more well-rounded and mature individual who is more prepared to take on the real world.