This past weekend I went to an undergraduate research symposium at Michigan State University. I traveled to East Lansing with two other DePaul students, Shrasta and Sanna, who also work in research labs in the chemistry department.
In preparation for the symposium I updated a poster of the lab work that I’ve been doing since my sophomore year. Putting the poster together was a bit tough, but it was nice to have something that shows the work I’ve done over the last couple of years.
We left Chicago Friday evening and got to MSU pretty late that night. Our hotel was paid for through the symposium, so the only expense we had was getting to the symposium. The next morning felt pretty early, especially after a busy school week. Before the poster presentation session there was an introduction from MSU staff and a brief Q&A with current MSU chemistry graduate students.
I was a bit nervous for the poster session, but it went pretty well. It was nice to have an opportunity to practice my presentation skills in such a low risk setting. What was most interesting was to talk to different students and gauge their interest level in their research. From the people I talked to, it looked like there were a good amount of students that wanted to go to medical school and another good chunk of students that wanted to go to graduate school in chemistry. It was interesting (in a good way) to talk to the students that wanted to go to graduate school because they were so excited about their research and you could tell that graduate school is right up their alley. It was also a nice reflection time for me, because it helped me realize that graduate school probably isn’t for me.
Lunch came around and I randomly ended up sitting with Dr. Viktor V. Poltavets, who was in charge of the symposium. He was a hoot. He was quite talkative and high energy, but also humble and easy to talk to. My conversation with him pointed out quite a few differences between DePaul and a school like MSU. I had never been in an academic environment as big as MSU, but I don’t mean that in a positive or negative way. What I’m trying to say is that it’s going to be important to think about what kind of environment you want to be in. The science program at DePaul is not all that large, and there are pros and cons to that. It means more face time with the professors, but it also means there is less opportunity to do some of the types of research that a large R1 school is able to do. Either way, it’s something to think about.
Overall, my trip to MSU for their undergraduate research symposium was pretty important for me to think about the future and to appreciate my experience at DePaul.