Being a University Honors Summer Scholar was the highlight of my research work at NIU. It meant that my research background from Research Rookies had prepared me to take on a bigger more in-depth research project for my University Honors Capstone. I learned that it takes a very high achieving student to win such an opportunity and award, and I was proud to be one of those three students.
During the summer I spent 20 hours a week, every week, working on my research. Reading, writing a literature review, completing IRB, emailing, finding participants, meetings, figuring out variables, analyzing the Pre Elementary Education Longitudinal Study Data, conducting interviews, etc. The summer was intense with research. When it came to the fall, things definitely calmed down on the research end. My classes and extra curriculars were rough and I couldn’t dedicate as much time as I wanted to towards my research. However, spring semester turned everything right back around, and my focus was once again research. I presented at 3 research events (NCUR, URAD, and the Honors Scholars Reception), and besides being busy preparing for those, I also was writing my Honors Capstone.
The spring semester was definitely my favorite semester research wise. I was able to do what I wanted to do with my research—share it with others! My first presentation was at NCUR, The National Conference for Undergraduate Research. NIU’s University Honors Program and Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning funded 15 other students and myself to go down to this conference in Louisville, Kentucky to present out research. The opportunity was amazing, eye opening, and rare. I got to see what other undergraduate students were researching, how their research levels compared to what students at NIU were researching, and how my NIU peers performed their presentations. I have to say, NIU is on top of its game as far as undergraduate research is concerned. I was so blown away and impressed with my peers. On the second day of the conference is when I presented my oral presentation for my research. I was excited that I took a challenge and decided to present orally instead of doing a poster, which I had already had experience doing. Thankfully, my presentation when smoothly! My audience had lots of good questions, and they seemed very receptive and engaged.
Although my final capstone project was not originally what I had planned it to be, I was happy with the work I had done. I completed 11 healthcare provider interviews, and I wish I could have done more and on a broader scale. I also did a data analysis with the Pre Elementary Education Longitudinal Study (PEELS) data, but the analysis was not a logistic regression which I had originally planned to do. My statistical program refused to cooperate with me, and my results were so skewed and unusable, I had to find another way to utilize the PEELS data. So, instead of interpreting the odds ratio result from the logistic regression, I simply looked at the tables and trends of my independent and dependent variables. It was a simplified method to my quantitative work, but I think it still had significance.
From these experiences, my presentations and my failures, I have learned a lot. I have learned how to cater to different audiences that I am presenting to, how to teach my research to others not just regurgitate it. I have also learned how to structure qualitative research questions better, how to analyze qualitative work, and how to overcome obstacles or unexpected circumstances throughout the research process.
I am proud to say that I will be attending Colorado State University in the fall of 2014. There, I will be pursuing my Master of Science in Occupational Therapy. I am also delighted to mention that I have gotten a research assistantship at the Occupational Therapy Department’s Child Participation in Environment Research Laboratory. This assistantship would not have been granted to me if it were not for my opportunities and award through the University Honors Summer Scholars Program. I can’t thank the University Honors Program enough for all they have done for me, through this program and others. They have made me more prepared for my future, have made me a more competitive student, have given me rare and unique opportunities to learn and grow…for that I thank them wholeheartedly.