GETTING INVOLVED IN RESEARCH AS AN UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT
Students can approach and work with lecturers as research assistants. Different lecturers have different processes on how to become a research assistant and what that entails. The following gives general tips on how to become a research assistant or mentee:
- Identify the area of research that you are interested in.
- Approach the lecturer you are interested in working with either because of their area of expertise or because of interest in working with that particular lecturer.
- The lecturers are friendly and are usually looking for research assistants because of the workload hence one should not hesitate to approach them at appropriate times.
- In case needed, prepare a CV. Lack of experience should not be a deterrent since it is expected that a student in the first or second year has little working experience.
- One should also expect a short interview for the lecturer to assess their suitability.
If accepted as a mentee/research assistant, one can expect to do the following:
- Varied research work since most lecturers are involved in multiple research projects.
- One also helps the lecturer in setting up events in the school or related areas.
- One also learns how to conduct research, write reports, grant applications and general academic writing.
- In some instances, one also conducts events on behalf of the lecturer. This is however at an advanced stage.
- Research assistants also have the opportunity to publish articles. Mentors help in this process and in some instances co-publish with the research assistant.
- Research assistants may also get opportunities to work at lecturer's organisations or institutions (such as law firms).
Benefits of such arrangements include:
1. The student benefits by gaining experience in undertaking research.
2. The student also gains opportunities to network during events and during the research process.
3. Publishing articles, book chapters and other publications also boosts one’s experience and builds one’s CV.
4. If the relationship between the mentor and mentee is good, one can get a good recommendation letter to help in job searches.
5. One also gains more in-depth knowledge of their area of interest due to rigorous research.