Research consists of
Research in the arts and humanities and social sciences includes archival work in the library or on the Internet, and a wide range of creative and artistic projects—from costume design to playwriting to curating a fine arts exhibit.
See also: About our research university
As a member of the research community, you are building on the knowledge that others have acquired before you and providing a road map for those who come after you. You are adding to a body of work that will never be complete. Research is an ongoing, collaborative process—with no finish line in sight.
UCSD offers undergrads a huge opportunity: to work side-by-side with cutting-edge researchers who are inventing the future. If you don’t get involved in research, you are missing out on one of the key reasons for being here. People learn by doing—and research is a highly effective way to learn.
As an undergraduate involved in a research project at UC San Diego you have the opportunity to create new knowledge, which is the primary goal of research. Undergraduate research projects also provide the way to learn the facts of how we know things. Students participating in research join the larger intellectual community and social fabric of explorers and scholars who are contributing to the expansion of the knowledge base itself.
Think of undergraduate research as a test bed for your future professional life. In pursuing a lab assignment, creating a music video, or performing library or Internet-based research you may have found your life’s work—and even discovered a career option you didn’t know existed.
But realizing what you don’t want is just as important as realizing what you want. You dream about going to medical school and discovering a cure for cancer. But do you really understand what the daily life of a medical student or a lab researcher looks and feels like?
As an undergrad researcher, you get to “try on” a discipline before committing to years of expensive schooling or a career path you don’t find personally rewarding. Once you’ve fulfilled your obligation to a researcher or successfully completed that independent study course, you can move on to an area of greater interest to you.
As a student researcher you’re taking part in an effort that is larger than yourself, which can have tremendous and longlasting impact on our environment, daily lives and culture—even on how we view history. The rewards that come with creating and disseminating new knowledge to others are invaluable.
Students who engage in undergraduate research are more likely to go on to graduate school, and on average become productive researchers in graduate school faster, according to the Council on Undergraduate Research. This is particularly true when undergraduate research is encouraged early in a student’s career and where the experience is not limited to honors students.
As an undergraduate researcher, you gain a glimpse of the next step or steps up the academic ladder.
College: Muir College, fifth year
Double major: math-computer science and ICAM (Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Major)
Research project: independent/volunteer: actor, choreographer, and director, Muir Musical
“Theatre happened before my undergraduate career in computer science happened,” says Rachelle, who’s been involved with musical theater since she was 10. “What works for me is doing what I love.”
Undergraduate research—from summer internships at high-tech firms to student theatre productions—helped Rachelle explore her options in a hands-on way. In 2008 she interned as a software engineer at Intuit and in 2009 as a game programmer at Sony Computer Entertainment America.
Her theatre research project—a volunteer effort without academic credit—is the Muir musical, an annual, student-run theatre production. During her first three years at UC San Diego, Rachelle was part of the cast. Last year she switched over to the production side as choreographer of Kiss Me Kate, and she will be directing the 2010 production. Throughout her participation in Muir productions she has been guided by faculty mentor Steven Adler, provost of Warren College and professor of stage management in UCSD’s Department of Theatre and Dance.
Rachelle credits her Muir musical activities with honing her leadership and project management skills, creating a sense of belonging at a large university, and pointing the way toward a career in entertainment technology.
After graduating in June 2010, Rachelle hopes to attend graduate school, earn a master of science degree in computer science, and pursue a career in entertainment programming—either for video games or digitally animated films.