I Have a Lot of Interests

We do, too! That is natural and helpful for the research and creative process. You have to start somewhere, though.

Narrow Down Your Interests

This is your chance to individualize your education. What has kept you engaged? What was the lesson in class that made your jaw drop?  What assignment inspired you to go an extra mile?  Study yourself: when have you been most excited about a topic?  

Use these questions to guide your process:

  • In the next 10 years, what is the most important problem you think people will need to solve?
  • What was the last concept you wanted to talk about with a friend? Why did learning it make you want to share it with someone?
  • If you could showcase a project in your portfolio to a future employer, what kind of project or output would it be?
  • What extracurricular skills, interests, and experiences might you bring together with your studies, for a project that only you could pursue?

It does not matter why something is interesting to you, it just matters that you are driven to learn more about it.  If it matters to you, it is worth doing research or creating art about.  

You can narrow the field of possibilities in several different ways:

  • By your interests: it interests you, so you learn more and stay engaged
  • By topic: you have always been curious about French cuisine, so you explore projects related to that
  • By method: you like collecting, so you look for a project that involves collecting and archiving
  • By correlation to your studies: a project is related to a task, field, or skill that is used in your future career

Remember, everyone's journey is different. There is no wrong way to engage with your interests.

Picking Your Research Topic

This is your project, and it can take a bit of time to settle on a topic and route.  Sometimes when you put your
self in the right places--office hours, courses with faculty at work on projects, student groups, research programs--a door will open before you.  If not, try not to get too weighed down by the options. Ultimately, you know yourself best and what interests you.  What topics do you gravitate towards?  Be confident in your passions!

Where Does Research Take Place?

Everywhere! This largely depends on your interests. STEM or more technical research typically takes place in a lab or research group setting that connects undergraduates with experienced researchers. Arts and Humanities research may take place in studios, libraries, or at your own desk. Fields don't always have uniform approaches to the research environment, though, and most offer multiple routes; for example, an Art scholar might create jewelry in metals, figure out who painted a mural and why, or design a new logo for CURCA (ahem). Here are some examples:

 

Research Group/Lab

Individual/Non-Lab

Chemistry Lab Documentary Film
Clinical Studies History
Digital Design Spaces Comparative Literature
Archaeological Fieldwork Theatrical Performance
Psychology Labs Mathematics

 

In lab settings, projects may be individual but contribute to larger, overarching research led by the faculty and postdoctoral/graduate researchers.

In non-lab settings, projects can be anything and everything: conducting interviews, analyzing texts or documents, working in artistic mediums or spaces. You may work in conjunction with faculty or graduate students or solo.  Whatever the setting, you will meet with your advisor regularly for guidance and feedback.