Carlo Aaron

I’m in a complicated relationship…with my undergraduate research.

In academic, Uncategorized on June 30, 2012 at 3:29 am

This is how I feel right now. Like a crazy person who hasn’t slept in days and eats ramen noodles for breakfast. Thankfully that’s just how I feel–my sleep is significantly reduced and I still have faith in the nutritional value of cliffbars– but if I don’t stop soon, I’m heading in that direction. Who am I that I should have such a bleak future, you ask?

An undergraduate researcher.

I’m one of the hundred of thousands of undergraduates in the country that sees no other hope for their future aside from graduate school (or whatever…I’m not actually sure how many people want to go to graduate school, but that figure feels about intimidating enough to be accurate). I’m also one of the many who have realized that I need to be as academically actualized as I can possibly be by the time I start applying to graduate school, thus, summer research program.

Don’t get me wrong, I highly recommend summer research. I really love the experience I’m having, and am very grateful for this unique program (MURAP at UNC Chapel Hill–look it up!) that combines GRE prep with research, among other things. One of those other things I am being exposed to, however, is the relationship one is likely to have with their research topic. This PhD comic is an apt representation of my feelings at the moment:

I feel too young to get PhD comics, but there you have it. One minute I’m all gung-ho over my obscure humanities research, the next, I am banging my head against the wall wondering why I thought this thing could ever work out. (We’ve been together for so long, dammit, but Rick Scott must be right, you are useless!) Honestly though, I do love what I am doing and it is totally worth my blood, sweat and tears…or really, just the tears.

So the reason why I’m posting this nonsense instead of something interesting and insightful about the world is because I feel like there must be some undergraduate out there that is suffering through the same thing. If you have found me seeking solace young undergraduate scholar, if the algorithm gods have responded to your sacrifice of several desperate keywords, then you know you are not alone. There may not be much hope for a future of sanity, but…well, we’re all going to die anyway. (I’m pretty sure that saying doesn’t actually fit here, but whatever YOLO.)

Here’s a list of things that might help you through your research experience:

  • Remind yourself that you are not going to die.
  • Don’t analyze your mentor/professor’s email for hidden criticisms.
  • Don’t analyze your mentor/professor’s email.
  • Eat food several times a day.
  • Don’t analyze your thoughts for latent insecurities/desires.
  • Calm down.
  • Don’t get hung up on potentially contradictory information that only might possibly undermine your research to the point where you can’t sleep and you email the author of the text who doesn’t recall what he wrote ten years ago because he’s like seventy and senile.
  • Shower regularly.

Cheers to a potentially bleak, but mentally fruitful future!


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