Students involved in undergraduate research at UC San Diego, one of the leading research institutions in the world, join the larger community of active scholars who are inventing the future in all academic areas.
A research project is a way to take a different approach to studying at UC San Diego: to work hand-in-hand and in depth with outstanding faculty, to gather and share information, and to participate in expanding the knowledge base. It is also a journey of self-discovery.
Enhancing the breadth of experience you’ll bring to graduate or professional school study is one critical result of undergraduate research. In addition, if you are a dedicated, thoughtful and responsible undergrad researcher, your faculty mentor may be more than willing to say so in recommendations when you apply to graduate schools. Your mentor will speak from experience—and have a keen understanding of your abilities and your potential to succeed in a graduate program.
Maybe you came to UC San Diego with a career goal in mind. A research project can help you focus those goals. Or maybe the project will help define new interests and send you off in exciting and different directions. A research project can be a solid platform for a later profession.
During your research, you’ll meet and develop relationships with faculty, staff and students. It’s a way to broaden your undergraduate life at UC San Diego.
Conducting undergraduate research is a worthwhile undertaking, with immediate benefits that include earning academic credit; learning how to look at any subject in more depth and more critically; becoming familiar with how labs, libraries, stages, archaeological sites or businesses operate; building teamwork skills; increasing your writing and presentations skills, and traveling, if that’s part of your research plan. Undergraduate researchers also have opportunities to present and share their work, which provides validation and recognition for a job well done.
College: Muir College, graduated 2009
Major: Visual Arts - Media
Research project: McNair scholar: video installations and audio/visual software for videos/performance art
“I work at the intersection of computer science and visual arts,” says Randell, a recent Muir graduate, who’s planning a one-year break from campus life. He will use the time to travel, work as a freelance graphic designer and facilitator in museum education programs, refine his portfolio, and continue to develop his undergraduate research project in performance art. Next up is graduate school—either for urban studies and architecture, or for a master’s in fine arts (MFA) degree and an academic career.
As an undergraduate researcher, Randell developed and veejayed audiovisual performances in popular-culture settings such as clubs, parties and city streets. A video jockey, also known as a VJ or veejay, is a performance artist who creates moving visual art on large displays or screens. One of the more challenging aspects of Randell's project was learning the various software programming and coding routines, which are constantly being upgraded.
His mentor, Professor Amy Alexander, recommended texts and videos for research purposes. She also introduced him to various artists in the Southern California area and several members of the visual arts faculty. The two collaborated on a project proposal for the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art.
As the first member of his family to attend college in the U.S., Randell qualified for a UC San Diego McNair program grant. He also enrolled in a 199 course for research credit. His year off, he reckons, will be time well spent. “Grad schools take into account what you do outside of school,” he says, “just to make sure you are really dedicated and passionate about your work as an artist.”