Undergraduate Research: Opportunity or a distant dream

Undergraduate Research: Opportunity or a distant dream

  1. A key gripe with the structure of the education system is that it focuses on all the wrong things. Holistic education should be geared, not towards giving you answers, but rather towards teaching you how and what to question. The idea of critical thinking, therefore, is one that aims to provide all young minds with an equal platform from which one can think. In such a scenario, we move away from the education that focuses exclusively on a post-facto job hunt. A society made up of money-minded graduates might be rich, but it can never truly be functional. In the absence of people who can question, democratic accountability almost always fails to follow. The engineers and business majors of today may bring wealth into the economy, but they will almost certainly bankrupt it for personal gain tomorrow. It is in this scenario that we have reached a crossroads where we must decide which is more important- An education focusing on grades and job prospects or one that prioritises undergraduate research. 

 

In most developing economies, the status quo prioritises the former. Education is correlated with a good job and this is often seen as the be-all and end-all of human ambition. From social standing to the kind of car you drive and the respect you accord from people, everything is intrinsically linked to your educational background. It is this mindset that first needs to change. The relative importance of the social sciences cannot be stressed enough in an increasingly diverse, globalised, and polarised world. The notion that going into academia is delaying success must also be broken down. Teaching as a profession must not be considered inferior, rather it must be seen as a tool to change lives. 

 

However, there is success to be found beyond the superficial. The rewarding nature of the research was best encapsulated by Anna Neumann, a fifth-year at Northeastern University, who said the following of the lab that she worked in- “The lab has a bunch of fruit on the tree and if you climb high enough you can get whatever fruit you want. If you put in the time, you get tenfold back.” The value associated with one’s own research is matched by very few things. At a younger age, the pursuit of undergraduate research can, therefore, be a fantastic way to broaden one’s horizons. It can be used to explore avenues from academia to just deep-diving into one’s interest areas. In conclusion, education geared towards research exposure at younger ages would be beneficial for students, both today and going forward.

 

Aryaman Sood

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Aryaman Sood

aryaman.sood_ug21@ashoka.edu.in

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