The Benefits of a Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates
Growing your skills, making career connections, and learning how to live on your own are just a few of the reasons to pack your bags for a summer research program.
Learning specialized skills/techniques
Bruno Mochi ’23, an ACS chemistry major, completed a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Miami in computational chemistry. He learned new software and how to use a supercomputer to find certain chemical-specific qualities for a chemical reaction.
“Some of the benefits—aside from having the opportunity to learn about the thing you are researching—are the skills you learn to do the research usually not taught in a classroom environment. This also allowed me to realize I wanted to continue in this field of science, giving me a sense of belonging and a path to set myself on to continue in this field of chemistry,” he said.
Dr. Rebecca Urban, director of environmental science and professor of biology, referenced a trio of LVC alumni who completed research programs at Cornell University and were later accepted into Ph.D. programs with those summer advisors.
“These experiences are also great for networking with graduate students,” said Urban. “Our students learn what graduate life is like, gain recommendations for how to apply to graduate programs, and learn about what type of research they might be interested in doing for graduate school.”
Growing critical skills
Along with technical skills that employers may appreciate, students improve their oral and written communication by presenting their summer experiences. My Ho ’22, an English and environmental science double major, completed an REU at the San Diego Zoo that led to an international presentation at the 2019 International Congress for Conservation Biology in Kuala Lumpur.
Jake Beidler ’23, an environmental science major, interned in New Hampshire with the Multiple Element Limitations in Northern Hardwood Ecosystems study and presented at the renowned Hubbard Brook Coordinators Meeting. They told Urban, “I never felt so good about a presentation before, and I got lots of good feedback on my project. It was also cool to hear about what else is being done in Hubbard Brook and the wider ecosystems science community.”
Planning for what comes next
REU can lead to students discovering likes and dislikes. A recent LVC student spent time at a West Coast university and was encouraged to apply to their graduate program, but realized they didn’t want to commit to being that far from home.
Aside from academics, these summer experiences provide life lessons, too.
“I learned how to cook for myself, live by myself, navigate a city by myself, and interact with a very diverse group of people constantly,” said Mochi. “You will have a better understanding of how the world is and learn more about yourself. Take courage, it might seem scary to live somewhere for a period, but the benefits you will get from it are immeasurable.”