Experiencing new and unfamiliar environments is a major element in a young college student’s life. When I first joined Dr. Hidecker’s lab, I was only a freshman. Dr. Hidecker came into my Intro to Communication Disorders class and announced opportunities to work in her research environment. Shortly after joining her lab, she suggested that I undertake an individual research project. I was purely intimidated. However, my research experience this past year has promoted personal and professional growth by encouraging a variety of valuable and applicable skills early in my academic career. I actively had to learn statistical software, establish new technical skills, and increase my knowledge of research tools and resources. Working with data also required me to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills that researchers must obtain to hurdle obstacles as they arise. In addition to providing employment (EPSCoR Student Fellowship Fall 2014 & Spring 2015), this research has broadened my networking with faculty mentors and other students interested in research and publication opportunities, especially within the Division of Communication Disorders.
Beyond the professional benefits, I also experienced major personal growth. The intimidation of research quickly evaporated as my confidence grew as each new skill was gained. Although I received guidance from my mentor, Dr. Hidecker, she allowed my independence to grow exponentially. I went from doubting every task to constructing my very own. Having only worked in a classroom research setting, I was used to experiments being designed to work. Being forced to confront intimidating new software, coding missing or new variables, and an overwhelming amount of data has taught me more than anything I could have absorbed through a book or lecture hall. These acquired skills, I believe, are the result of my decision to start research at the first possible opportunity. I encourage all students, but especially those first year freshmen, to really look into working in a faculty’s research lab. You will create a foundation for future success in many aspects of your academic and personal life!
(Dr. Hidecker’note: We are so proud that Maddie received 1st place in the poster presentation competition at the College of Health Science Research Day, April 17, 2015. What is even more remarkable is that this was her first research presentation!)