Yesterday, SURI researchers joined Dr. Daniel Strunk for our weekly Wednesday lunch. Dr. Strunk is a researcher and professor of Psychology at Ohio State, and studies depression and treatment strategies including cognitive therapy. We had a great time chatting with Dr. Strunk about his research, his academic path, and graduate school! Here’s a few interesting tidbits we learned from lunch yesterday.
First, one important lesson was that your undergraduate research experience matters. It matters a lot. Dr. Strunk described how besides his undergraduate coursework, he spent the rest of his free time working in the lab. His research group even hosted “Research Saturdays” where lab members would come in at 6 in the morning on Saturday do work on data analysis, writing, etc. Now that’s dedication! Dr. Strunk mentioned repeatedly that it was his extensive undergraduate research experience—which included 20-30 hours/week in the lab, several published papers, etc—that helped him land a spot in a graduate program at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania. Never underestimate where your undergraduate research experience will take you!
Second, Dr. Strunk mentioned the importance of developing a quality relationship with your mentor. In particular, your research advisor can be extremely beneficial for writing letters of recommendation, which are essential components for applications to graduate and professional school. In addition, your research advisors often know other colleagues in your field of interest, and they can provide you advice on whom you may want to consider working for in graduate school. One piece of advice Dr. Strunk mentioned is to do everything you can to make your relationship with your advisor work. He mentioned how once, he had a research meeting with his advisor while standing in line for the bank, simply because that was the only time his mentor was available. Sure, it can be tough communicating with your advisor at times, but it’s incredibly important to make time for meetings in person, via email, or even while running errands!
Finally, one interesting thing that Dr. Strunk mentioned was finding a balance between doing research projects you are really interested in versus doing research projects that are feasible given time or logistical constraints. Ideally, your dream research project and the practical research project will be the same. However, that is rarely the case, and you may feel conflict as you decide which project to pursue. Dr. Strunk mentioned that one possible option is to do the practical research project—the one that will earn your thesis credit, complete your dissertation, etc.—but also pursue your dream research project on the side in your remaining time.
Just a few things to think about as you are continuing your research this summer! Lunch with Dr. Strunk was a great opportunity to relax and learn some valuable information from a faculty member on campus. Be sure to join SURI for lunch each Wednesday at 12:30pm—we meet in the center of the Oval, with a rain site in 060 Page Hall. See you next week!
Tiffany and Jackie