What is Research?
Research is the systematic investigation of a particular topic to learn facts and draw conclusions. Research is work to acquire new knowledge. Research is a careful inquiry. A science professor may define research in terms of the scientific method. A philosophy professor may define research in reference to a particular philosopher. Regardless of how you define research, it's an experience many undergraduates hope to obtain. At Johns Hopkins, research is an integral part of the environment. Just ask the students and faculty:
"Medical research was one of the coolest experiences I've had. I learned way more in the lab then I could ever learn in lecture and the best part was it was all at the cutting edge On the other hand, policy research is more about going at your own pace instead of waiting for an experiment to be done so it's a lot more flexible. Both were amazing experiences and I love both. If there were more then 24 hours in a day I'd definitely be doing them at the same time."
-Public Health Major
"Research that I conducted in China was some of the most academically and personally motivating experiences I've had at Hopkins. It put a human face on all that I studied, giving me a perspective I would not have been able to develop in the classroom alone...it's one thing to read about pollution disputes, and something entirely different to see how the local cement factory is polluting the only river in the village... It's challenged the ways that I conceive of the world, and the role I want to play in it."
-East Asia Studies Major
"I spent 6 months in Amsterdam studying Bach cello suites. I was doing research on the performance practice of the music, or how they were played throughout the ages, from when they were first written in the 1600s to present day...a lot of people think you can't make something new out of history, because it's already happened. I've been playing these suites since I was 9, but to go abroad and see them in a completely new way was incredibly exciting."
-History and Cello Major
"Some of our undergraduate students have been very successful in research. One was a finalist for the prestigious Apker Prize, and another, to the lasting gratitude of a faculty member, fixed a computational error in the program of a telescope that was going to be launched into space...the nature of what any particular student does is really determined in a very specific way, tuned to the situation of that individual person."
I started research as a freshman at Hopkins, with no previous experience at all. Thus, the whole process of finding and settling into a research position was completely foreign to me. As I journeyed through it, though, I found my expectations about research differed in many ways from reality. Beyond something that Hopkins students just do, I started to see how intriguing it was to explore something completely new, to push at the boundaries of human knowledge in making sense of the world around us. I also saw how difficult it is to do so, the ups and downs that come with it, and the persistence and dedication that are absolutely required. I've contributed some of these insights to this website, and I hope they help!
-Allen Jiang, BME 2014, co-creator of the Undergraduate Research Web Site