Why Research?

Hello scientists! During your time here so far, you may have heard of science research at Princeton – either through your STEM classes, through listserv emails, or through conversations with your peers and professors. At Princeton, I became involved in research and I grew to love this activity as a way to engage with my academic interests outside of the classroom. There are so many great benefits from pursuing a research interest, but first let’s talk – why science research?

Frick Chemistry Laboratory - full of natural light and glass and wood features.
Frick Chemistry Laboratory – an on-campus location of burgeoning science research. (Photo taken by Rebecca Cho.)
  1. Broaden your knowledge.

Apply your classroom knowledge to the real world. It is often difficult to perceive how your lectures, textbook readings, and homework assignments actually manifest outside of the classroom. Research is a perfect way to see this. Everything that you take away from a research experience grounds you in how your passions and academic ambitions can relate to the real world. This, in turn, might fuel your interest even further, making classroom learning more exciting!

  1. Make a change.

There truly is no age too young to make a change. It is amazing how undergraduate students are able to contribute to an ever-widening field of study, endlessly questioning natural phenomena. Who knows how you will affect the future world? You might be the very person to help discover new mechanisms or pathways that will greatly affect how doctors will treat patients in the future or how engineers will create new, sustainable cities. 

  1. You can study anything you want.

The greatest benefit of pursuing science research is the liberty in choosing and delving into a topic, and there’s no better place to do this than at Princeton. Research is an endeavor outside of the restrictions of a classroom – an activity in which you can study a topic (as niche as you would like) without the worry of receiving a grade. You are able to experience the depth of the scientific material at a professional level and you can receive exposure to the intersection of various scientific, mathematical, or technological fields. Here at Princeton, there are countless researchers who investigate projects holding implications for numerous STEM fields – many of which are not their own. 

  1. Build relationships.

After identifying a particular topic you are interested in, find a professor of interest and don’t be afraid to reach out. Explain your personal interest and how you came about their particular work. Be enthusiastic about wanting to join them in their research pursuits and be open to building one-on-one relationships with graduate students and mentors in similar fields of work. These people will often serve as great resources – not just for questions regarding the projects, but also for advice on potential career and burgeoning questions in the scientific community. 

  1. Challenge yourself. 

Finding a research question and designing a project takes diligence, dedication, and passion. It is a challenging process that often requires patience and commitment to exact a research purpose, determine the most fit methodology, and identify and analyze findings. Getting through this process asks for the development of skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, and independent work. Ultimately, it is a rewarding experience in which you can be empowered with knowledge and new skills.

— Rebecca Cho, Natural Sciences Correspondent