By: S. David Ross, Associate Director
Have you considered the prospects of participating in a structured research program or conducting research with a professor while a student at Penn outside of academic requirements? There are a number of ways to get involved in conducting research while at Penn. However, it may be unclear just how valuable these experiences can be – here are a few things to consider:
Participating in a research program or research lab with a professor can further develop your problem-solving and critical-thinking skills which are very valuable for future opportunities. For example, in fields such as consulting where employees face many unstructured problems, having a research background can be helpful to apply a structured approach to try to identify solutions. The ability to analyze a situation and interpret data can certainly be helpful in many different job functions across industries. Research experience can also signal a level of inquisitiveness and curiosity that can be appealing.
Obtaining research experience can potentially demonstrate you are a subject matter expert on a certain topic – knowledge that may be useful for your future career pursuits. If you are considering your job or internship options within a particular industry, having in-depth insight on a particular topic may be attractive to companies and firms looking to hire. This knowledge base may be a useful point of differentiation from other job applicants.
Having a formal research background can signal your willingness to accept a challenge, may showcase your persistence, or highlight your ability to deal with adversity and make adjustments. Research is not easy. You may encounter obstacles, setbacks or other delays that are prohibitive. During those tough times, you may find that you strengthen your resolve and determination to ultimately overcome roadblocks. You never know when you may need any or all of these skills in the future.
You may discover a passion and aptitude that you never knew existed. By engaging in a research experience, you may identify a field that you enjoy immensely. That could lead to future opportunities in disciplines you are not currently considering. There is nothing like finding a good fit in a work environment.
Ultimately, you should decide what you feel are the best pursuits and endeavors for your background, talents and interests. But, if you haven’t already, it may be worth considering potential research avenues and options while enrolled at Penn. Explore while you have the chance!