Participating in research is popular among various pre-health professional fields. Doing research as an undergrad is not a “must-do,” but some dental schools see it as a plus. Although it sounds endearing and can add to the professional growth of many undergraduate students, research can be scary at the same time. This fear could be attributed to some of the stereotypes (or myths) we hold about research. Here, I want to dispel those myths and discuss how to enjoy being a part of research, while learning a lot from the experience.
1. Research has to be about complicated, biology-based science. This is not true. There is a variety of important research being done across the nation. Be open in exploring what kind you are passionate about or would like to pursue. It could be more application or educational, just keep in mind there is far more depth in research than you may think.
2. Professors or doctors don’t take many undergraduate research assistants. It is true that graduate-level professors usually don’t seek undergraduate research assistants. However, that does not mean it’s impossible to get into research with these professors. You have to be the one actively approaching professors and constantly demonstrating your interest in being part of their research. Many professors want to have more active and passionate students involved with their projects. If you are willing to put in the time for the research you are interested in, opportunities will arise.
3. Participating in research means your name will be published in a paper. Not all research is going to be centered about writing papers that get published. Many undergraduate students will participate in big projects where graduate students take the lead and assist in a lab. In this case, your name might be included in parts of the paper. However, unless you take the investigative lead on the project and actually write some of the paper with your principal investigator, your name won’t be listed as one of the first authors. Though it is amazing to be published, the experience of assisting a great professor with many publications will give you insights and help you learn more about the research field itself.
Take advantage of your undergraduate research opportunities, not just in dentistry but in all fields of study. You will never know what kind of things you can learn through the topic itself or through mentorship from the professor. You may even have the opportunity to continue the research during your dental school years.
~Claire Chae Rin Kim, Stony Brook ’19, ASDA Predental Advisory Committee
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