Florida Tech is well-known for all the scientific research that is conducted by its professors and students (undergrad and graduate alike) in fields like engineering and science. But what a lot of people don’t know is that our psychology department also conducts world-class research. In fact, every undergraduate gets to conduct a Major Research Project (or MRP), usually during their junior year. This spring, it was my turn.
As with anything, there was preparation involved with this project. MRPs are undertaken during a class called Research Methods and Statistics 2. In this class, we learned how to conduct experiments by running our own correlational studies. We utilized uniform data sets and chose from a list of variables, then did plenty of analyses on our results. In the second semester of the class, it was finally time for what we had all been waiting for. Our semester assignment was to conduct a group research project on anything we chose, with few to no constraints. The options were endless. My heart leapt just at the idea.
Much to my delight, my group left the main body of the project to me. I decided that we were going to go about examining underlying social perceptions of undergraduate psychology majors – I wanted to see if there was anything to my feeling that psych students like me were the “underdogs” on the university scene.
I designed a multi-faceted survey taken by over 200 undergraduate students to collect qualitative and quantitative data. After that, my group and I set out to analyze all of our data and finish our project (which was not an easy task with our high number of respondents). All in all, I ended up with a 25-page paper (with four appendices!) that I was super proud of. But I wasn’t done quite yet.
My professor and her teaching assistant could see just how excited I was about my research. They were also both shocked at the sheer amount of data that I had collected—they told me that I had as many participants as most graduate students had in their research! My teacher asked me if I wanted to do anything further with the work outside of the class and I jumped on the opportunity. I didn’t want my work to just end up as a grade after all the time I spent on it.
Since I got this opportunity, I’ve been working with my professor to run additional statistical analyses on the data I collected to prepare a more formal report. It’s a lot of hard work, but she says that I have a shot of getting my work published or presenting it at a conference. What an incredible opportunity for an undergrad!
Opportunities like these are everywhere. Most people would have written their MRP off as a simple assignment, but it can be so much more. This is my public service announcement of the day: Don’t let what seems like a little opportunity pass you by. Stick your foot in the door and see how many new doors open. As long as you’re dedicated to what you do, the world will open up before you. Never underestimate what an assignment, class, club or a professor can do for you. You never know where a little bit of hard work can get you.