Looking back, I never would have thought I would be interested in academia. But, here I am right now writing about my 10-week research experience. The thing with research is that there isn’t a clear cut approach on how to organize or analyze data. There’s no plug and chug. By being a person who likes seeing the solution right away, I initially found the constant need to brainstorm a bit bothersome. However, it was through the weekly lab meetings that I learned the importance of breaking a problem step by step. You have to see the trees before the forest. By doing so, you open new paths in new lights that you can use to find a solution. Before, whenever I thought of research I would imagine lab coats and beakers, but research can be on anything from human behavior to computer science.
When people ask me what kind of research I engaged in, I like to say I observed customers at Chipotle to study cheating and theft. That sure scrunches many eyebrows. This is the essence of research. This is what makes research fun. You get to be the one to design the experiment. We wanted to observe how many people would ask for a water cup to get a fountain drink instead. For most of my summer, I worked with a Ph.D. student who focuses on embarrassment, which was one of the main projects I worked on this summer. Embarrassment is a weird emotion. It’s weird because one only feels embarrassment through the presence of real or imagined others. The main goal of this project was to observe if embarrassment would increase prosocial behavior as previous literature had claimed. However, to avoid embarrassment individuals may end up acting in self-serving ways to prevent the situation altogether.
After the ten weeks came to an end, I felt a sense of satisfaction. Unfortunately, I just glimpsed the surface of the academia world. Although my future in academia is uncertain, research has given me a new mindset on how to tackle problems.