McNair Summer Research 2017 – Kimberly Snell

On September 1st, twelve McNair Scholars presented the findings of their summer McNair-funded research projects.  Each student had 15 minutes to give a power point presentation and to take questions from the audience.

This blogpost features Kimberly Snell, senior in Neuroscience.  It is the first in a series about our summer researchers.

Kimberly Snell:

Projects:  “Cutaneous Rabbit Illusion:  Emotional Aspects” and
“Feel Aesthetics:  A Neuroscientific Look at the Aesthetics of Touch”

LOL My Thesis Title:  “I Did It for the Monet”

Research Mentor:  Dr. Mounia Ziat

What is one thing that you learned from this research experience?

This research experience made me appreciate the intricacies of collecting scientific data.  It is one thing to read about conducting a scientific experiment; it is another to conceive of, develop, conduct, and present research.  I feel that my education about the subject was much more in depth than it would be just simply reading a textbook about the subject.

What surprised you?

I was surprised by the length of time it takes to conduct research.  I imagined research to be a series of tasks to complete in rapid succession; but the preparation for and conducting of the experiment took much longer than I anticipated due to schedule conflicts, equipment malfunctions, or just simply looking for the right resources to draw information from.

What frustrated you?

Unexpected equipment failures frustrated me the most.  It was frustrating to have everything ready to go to get through the data collection phase, but being unable to move forward with the experiment because of equipment failure.

Tell us something about your research mentor.

Dr. Mounia Ziat is an amazing research mentor.  She has encouraged and guided me through the research project, has been readily available, and has been generous enough to include my name on the publication of our experiment.  It is very prestigious to have a published paper as an undergraduate, and it will help distinguish me as a PhD candidate.  Without Dr. Ziat and McNair, I would not have had the opportunity to get this experience so early in my education and career.

If you had the project to do over, what would you do differently?

I would probably try to do better time management.  Instead of doing each individual phase of the experiment one after another, I would try to work on several aspects of the experiment simultaneously.  I feel as if the literature review, experiment, and presentation of the results would have gone faster and more smoothly.

If I could redo the project, I would also choose not to take a class at the same time.  It was not impossible to do research and  take a class at the same time, but it did pull my attention in a way that I could not give 100% to whatever it was I needed to work on at the time.

Any advice for your fellow McNair Scholars who will do research next summer?

If you can get away without taking a class during the summer, don’t.  Also know that setbacks happen, and although they are frustrating, they help you learn to overcome obstacles and be flexible.

Does this research experience make you more or less likely to apply to graduate school?  Please explain.

This research experience has truly been invaluable to me and has cemented my resolve to complete a PhD.  The research experience was exciting, intellectually stimulating, frustrating, boring at times, and always wonderful.  The literature review gave me a solid foundation of knowledge on the subject I chose to study, the data collection made me understand the nuances of working with human subjects, and the research paper and presentation forced me to think about and understand the topic through the eyes of a non-expert audience.

Is there anyone that you would like to publicly recognize/ thank who helped you with your project?

McNair, first and foremost.  I feel incredibly grateful to this program for giving me the opportunity to have this experience.  Before I was accepted to McNair, I did not think I was equal to competing for a PhD spot, let alone being able to successfully complete a PhD program.  But after working with McNair for the past year and seeing the research experiment through, I know now that I am capable of getting my PhD and more, that I will spend my career doing exactly what I love to do.  Thank you Heather, Jenny and Lindsay for all the work you’ve done!

I would like to thank Dr. Mounia Ziat as well.  She has been extremely generous, insightful, and a wonderful guide during the research experience.

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