Foray into Research
Earlier, I talked about doing research for the first time. You can read about that here. And while I'm still doing that, there is one thing I didn't mention. I'm working more than one research position at once. Yeah.
Before I explain why, just know that it really wasn't intentional. Finding research positions at Dartmouth is surprisingly easy. Turns out that there's an entire database dedicated solely to helping undergraduates find research positions. It's a massive database, containing projects for every field of study ranging from anthropology to chemistry to film and media to Japanese studies, etc. I wanted to start slow, and try out one research position at first.
So about 2 months or so ago I started to look for jobs based on this database. And, not wanting to overcommit myself and have to awkwardly explain to professors that I had to turn down their labs because I got a better job offer from their colleague, I only applied to two research positions that really interested me.
How was I to know that both professors would get back to me in the same week?
And so now I'm working on two research projects concurrently, and I have to say I'm loving them both. Now, both of them are really tech-y (which makes sense, because with coronavirus much of what you can do remotely is coding and data analysis), I've talked about the first one, bioinformatics aiding with cancer research, but this week I want to talk about the second. Mobile mental health.
To be honest with you, mental health has started to become much more important to me since I came to Dartmouth. And not because of Dartmouth itself. Quite the contrary. Being at Dartmouth has helped me realize that the environment I came from wasn't really conducive or healthy for me. And taking advantage of the medical resources here has helped me become a better, healthier person for it. But not everyone has access to Dartmouth-level resources. So that's why when I read the project description for mobile mental health, well, I really wanted to be part of it.
But here's the thing. I don't as of right now have the technical skills to be part of it. The research position was completely coding. In fact, it was a new coding language that was just developed in the past 10 years (which is really young for a coding language), and so it was highly recommended that you strongly grasped the principles of coding to make the learning curve easier. But as someone who took half the sequence of an introductory computer science course, well, it'd be a stretch to say that I have.
But the thing is, as soon as I told my PI that, all he said was "it's okay, you're a Dartmouth student. I have complete faith in your ability to work hard and figure it out."
And I can say that after just a week working in the lab, and having finished my first project and am on to my next, well, I hope he's right.
Because here's the thing. I'm not doing high level work. I admit that. But there's something comforting about the fact that just being a part of the Dartmouth name is in itself a sign of faith in my abilities for others to see, but also for myself. Speaking candidly, a lot of students at Dartmouth struggle as to whether they deserve to be here. But even if we can't see that for ourselves, just the fact that we are here is enough for professors to give us (technically) paid jobs? Even if we tell them to their face that we're not qualified? Well, hopefully things just start to speak for themselves.