As Jessica Murray assisted Dr. Gretchen Potts with ongoing research on electronic or e-cigarettes, the undergraduate student said she learned a lot about problem solving and troubleshooting. She recently presented her Departmental Honors Thesis in chemistry.
UTC Research Day 2014 gave Murray an opportunity to describe her work. Coordinated by the Office of Partnerships and Sponsored Programs, Research Day 2014 brought more than 150 faculty, staff members and students to the UTC University Center to make poster and platform presentations and engage in symposia.
Murray calls her undergraduate research experience “a really good growing experience.” She was able to immerse herself in a fascinating subject, to learn beyond the classroom. As she makes application for pharmacy school, she knows this experience will be helpful.
“I learned to be independent. I gained maturity and learned how to think for myself,” Murray said.
Potts, UC Foundation Associate Professor of Chemistry and Director of the UTC Achieve Degree/Integrated Studies, agrees. She has seen Murray grow and gain confidence in the 15 months since they began working together.
“When a student is conducting research and they cannot immediately solve a problem, I let them flounder a little bit,” Potts said. “They may have to go to the library or do some deep reading to find a solution. Rather than me jumping in to help, it’s better for the student to become a problem solver.”
Graduate student Raj Thakkar assisted Dr. Farah Kandah in the study of the Global Environment for Network Innovations (GENI). The research involves checking the efficiency and speed of sending files from one host to another.
As he learned more about GENI, Thakkar also learned to be punctual with his reports to Kandah, Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Thakkar was able to explore the research by himself, but Kandah was available whenever he needed help.
“My professor explained that my reports needed to be understood by anyone who would work on this project. I had to be able to explain the research properly. That will help me when I am working in the field—I will work in a team and I will know how to do the work properly,” Thakker explained.
Thanks to Thakker’s documentation, subsequent student researchers who will assist Kandah will have a better understanding of the research.
“Student researchers greatly improve their critical thinking skills,” Potts said. “That’s very important, whether they are going to graduate school, taking a job in industry, going to professional school or law school or even staying at home.”