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I began doing research as a freshman and it was a lot easier to get involved than I had thought at first! I initially reached out to multiple professors to schedule meetings to ask questions about their research to determine what projects I would be interested in and to decide how I could help with the research. The following is a list of questions that are important to ask during these meetings:

  • What type of projects are you currently working on and are there plans for new research projects in the near future?
    • This is an important question to get an idea if you would be interested in the topics the professor is working on. You will spend a lot of time on the project specifics and the best research job will be one that you are invested in!
  • Within a specific project, what would my role be and who would I be working with?
    • Many professors have PhD students who lead their own research and you may work with them, so this is a good clarifying question to ask. Additionally, asking what your role would be and what a typical shift would look like is a very important factor in considering what research position to choose. Some research positions will have you do reading and writing literature reviews, in others you will be helping to clean up or review data work, and some will include a wide variety of tasks. Depending on what you want to get out of research, this question can eliminate or prioritize certain research projects. 
  • What would my weekly time commitment be?
    • Typically research projects will require 6-10 hours each week, but this does depend on the professor and the project. In order to do research, it’s important to fully commit and understand your responsibility if you start the position. The professor or PhD student will be relying on your help, so it’s vital to stay realistic about how many hours you can actually commit per week to help them in their research. 
  • Would this position be solely in the lab or online?
    • Many research positions have a mix of your hours being both physically in the lab and working virtually. However, each position is unique and may have a different combination such as solely working in the lab or only working from home.

Being involved in research is a really great way to get a better understanding of what you are doing in class, to narrow down on a specific aspect of your major, and to obtain experience in the professional world. I would recommend everyone to try doing research and learning more about the projects USC is working on!

Timothy Harrington