Summer break is the perfect time for students to try experiences that might not fit into their busy semester schedules. While internships and study abroad trips are popular pursuits, summer research is often overlooked — yet it's an important way to gain hands-on knowledge in a student’s field.
How does summer research work?
The first step is for a student to talk to a faculty advisor or professor about a research idea. In some cases, students join a faculty member’s existing research project; students may also choose their own research topic and work with the help of a professor in a related field. Because St. Edward’s has such a low student-to-faculty ratio, and our faculty members are very dedicated to student research, students can usually find an enthusiastic mentor. After the research is completed, mentors often encourage students to present their findings at conferences.
Brenda Vallance, dean of the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences, stresses that students need to initiate the conversation. She says: “Let your faculty advisor know what your research interests are so they can help you take the next step. There is no such thing as a bad research idea — if you have an idea, pursue it.”
Why should my student complete summer research?
The benefits are numerous. For students who want to pursue graduate school, research and presentation experience are essential. And the organizational, problem-solving and communication skills developed through research can be applied in traditional employment. Students also develop close bonds with their mentors, who are thus better able to write letters of recommendation or give professional advice.
Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Trish Baynham adds, “Our students have an amazing competitive edge, not because they ‘checked the box’ of having performed research, but because they gained reasoning skills and developed tenacity while wrestling with their research question.”
Who can conduct summer research?
Natural science majors are obvious choices, but other students can participate in research. For example, Religious and Theological Studies majors may choose to explore primary research using archival documents; Environmental Science and Policy majors may survey the local community about an environmental issue and then analyze the results.
Some degree programs require that students complete an internship, and in some cases students are able to participate in an internship that combines experiential learning with research opportunities. Other students enroll in a research class during the spring and then continue that research during the summer.
It’s never too soon to start planning for the summer. Encourage your student to talk to his or her professors and faculty advisor about research possibilities — and about grants and other funding that are available for students who need financial support so they can pursue their research.
Summer Scholars Program
At St. Edward's, we also have a Summer Scholars program. Learn more about the research and creative projects that make top students even more competitive for prestigious postgraduate scholarships and fellowships.
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