I am so honored to have spent this summer conducting research with a Penn faculty member through PURM. My mentor, Professor Rudra Sil, guided and taught me throughout this entire novel process of research. Prior to PURM, I had no research experience whatsoever and was surely not interested in spending my summer on campus. I thought political science research was more or less just writing literature reviews and keeping current with the news. This summer, however, changed my entire concept of what research in the social sciences is like and could be like. Not only did I help Professor Sil with his research on an upcoming paper/conference, he also encouraged me to commence my own research project on a topic I was interested in. Hence, I was able to work on two very different projects this summer: (1) The 2011 Zhanaozen Oil Strike: How Societal Expectations in Kazakhstan Contributed to Labor Backlash in the Commodity Sector and (2) Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Cooperation and Rivalry of Great Powers in Kazakhstan.
My PURM experience this summer was an integral aspect of my overall education here at Penn because it provided the opportunity to just be focused on research without other academic commitments that the normal school year would entail. I not only learned what the research process is like, I was able to meet and reach out to other members of Penn faculty that were able to guide me in my research. For example, I never utilized sources, manuscripts, and databases that Penn provides to their full potential until I was forced to grapple with hard research questions that Professor Sil asked me to look into. Also, I was able to develop close relationships with some of the librarians, as they often provided insightful advice on how to access data or find information. Although research can be quite frustrating at times (especially when my kind of research did not require any sort of step-by-step laboratory work), I truly enjoyed the overall process. All of this could not have happened without PURM.