What I Didn’t Expect to Learn from my First Research Experiment

Starting a new adventure at any point in life can be daunting, especially in college. When I first applied for my research position in an EEG lab (Electroencephalogram lab measuring brain activity), I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into as this was all new territory for a second-year neuroscience student.

However, once I finally got my first job in the lab, I found student research can be so much more in depth than I previously thought.

One of the first things I learned is there’s a heaping load of papers and literature that comes along with research. The goal of this is to get the student fully immersed in the content and information regarding the purpose of the research they’ll be helping in. During my first day on the job, when my task was to administer an EEG alone, I learned so much about myself and about a demographic of people whom I previously had little interaction with.

Stay calm in tough situations

The first day I administered the EEG myself seemed like a normal day in lab, except I was alone. I hoped everything would run smoothly, but this was not the case. My computer was down, the participant couldn’t find our lab room, and the EEG computer was not set up correctly. These things had not happened during my months of experience with the lab manager. All I had was my previous knowledge and a quick phone call to the lab manager for help. What usually takes about a half hour of set up ended up taking me an extra hour and a half. Out of all the stress I’ve had in college, this might have surpassed finals week stress. In the end, it all worked out fine, but I realized I had acquired the ability to stay calm in front of others in a stressful situation—which was a very rewarding feeling.

Be understanding of others

Understanding and communicating with people I had no experience with also really challenged me—people with cochlear implants. Not only did the participants have CI’s (cochlear implants), but they were ages 65 and older. In addition to this, running any kind of experiment takes a bit of flexibility and quick problem solving. I had to constantly be on my toes to get around problems that arose. This included communicating a set of commands with the participant if they had hearing deficits, understanding their needs and abilities and being able to talk and make the participant feel calm. I realized the kind of person I needed to be when administering the experiment. It made me really appreciate the opportunity given to me.

Earning trust is SO important

To earn anyone’s trust, you must be sympathetic, understanding and devoted. Being a research assistant is an important position to data collection, and I had to earn the trust from my lab supervisor by always being on top of things. The quality of data is the most important thing in an experiment, because you find your results from it. To get quality data, you need quality people performing it. For me to get to the point of doing things on my own, I had to show my boss I was devoted and determined to do my best and make sure the data was precise and accurate.

I’ve had numerous jobs in my time as a teenager until now—nothing could’ve prepared me for the world of research. It’s vast and scary to jump head first into, but the experience and the knowledge I gained from it is so much more than you might think. If you’re considering research, go for it, you never know what you might learn.

What are some life lessons you’ve learned during your college job or jobs? Share them in the comments!


Natalie is a neuroscience major on a pre-medical track at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. She’s a member of Nu Ro Si, a neuroscience honorary and is also a member of the organization Ohio Health Aid. With her degree, she plans to attend medical school at The Ohio State University and eventually become a Neurologist.

Apart from her school extracurricular activities, Natalie enjoys spending her time jogging around campus, meeting new people and playing sand volleyball with her intramural team. She’s also passionate about health and helping others, which is why she wishes to pursue a personal training certification. Aside from helping others in fitness, Natalie also loves helping others achieve their academic goals, which is why she pursued a job as a student ambassador. She’s excited to represent the company and be part of the Cengage Team!

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