The Stuff that Makes a Researcher

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Chad Topaz, a Math professor at Macalester College wrote an interesting blog entry on undergraduate research over at siam.org.  Chad explains that many undergraduates tend to be unduly intimidated by Research:

I think the view that research necessitates genius is counterproductive and inaccurate. I worry that some students who might make meaningful contributions to the world through research (while of course, there are many other equally valuable ways besides research) are turned off by research-fear before they even start. 

Chad then goes on to explain that although one doesn’t need to be a genius, which none of us really has control over, there are a few things undergrads can do to have a successful research experience.  The entire list is great, and definitely worth reading, but here is my favorite part.  Chad noticed this about his most successful student researchers:

They took ownership. They acted like the project was theirs, rather than like it was some really hard homework assignment I had given them that they were required to complete. They understood that I didn’t have the answer to their problem. 

I agree that this is a crucial step for any researcher, and something that coursework often doesn’t impart in students. 

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