Engaging in the Optional: The Benefits of Going the Extra Mile

2014-11-10 09.59.22
Presentations are a large part of many research disciplines.

My inbox gets bombarded with emails advertising various events on campus on a daily basis. And every Monday, the Psychology Department advertises one particular event: Departmental Research Presentations. I always notice and read these emails, curious about what kinds of research professors and graduate students are conducting at the University. However, no matter how intriguing the presentation topic, I have never actually showed up to these presentations… that is, until recently.

Last week, as usual, I scanned the email, searching for the name of the professor and the title of their presentation. I stopped mid-email, however, when I discovered that the person presenting was actually one of my former preceptors, who is now a grad student in the lab I currently work in! Immediately, an internal conflict emerged. I felt compelled to attend the event, wanting to support the graduate student presenting and hear about the results of work conducted in our lab. However, I also felt a desire to uphold my longstanding tradition of not attending these non-mandatory department research presentations, thinking to myself, “what type of undergraduate student attends these things anyway?”

In the end, I did end up attending the talk, and am extremely glad I did so. I was able to learn a lot about proactive and reactive control in working memory, a subtopic of Psychology that I found to be interesting. I also gained a better representation on what it means to be a researcher: in addition to collecting and analyzing data, researchers must be able to convey the results of their studies in a clear and concise way, allowing others to understand and interpret their data.

Attending the presentation taught me more about the collaborative side of research, as I watched the attendees of the presentation inquire about the research in a way that helped the presenter strengthen his understanding of his own work. While most of the people in attendance were graduate students and faculty members, being among them made me feel more closely connected to the discipline in which I study.

From my experience, I found that these short departmental presentations are great ways to submerge yourself into the culture of collaboration while exerting minimal effort once you get there! People also take notice; when your professors see you at these events, they realize that you are going the extra mile to engage in the research community of your discipline. They are undoubtedly impressed by your commitment to knowledge.

Thanks to the courage I found to attend last weeks presentation, I’m now looking forward to receiving next Monday’s email!

— Jalisha Braxton, Natural Sciences Correspondent