Research Assistantships: A Student Perspective

When we first started writing The Pink Flamingo, we interviewed some students engaged in internships, research assistantships, and teaching assistantships. We decided to conduct some new interviews with recent students. In our first installment, Matt Machnik tells us about his RA with Dr. Martin.

1. Who were you working with for your research assistantship (RA)?

Dr. Ryan Martin

2. How did you find out about the RA and go about getting it?

I first heard about the research assistant opportunities during classes. I talked to different professors about the opportunities that were available. I periodically checked the Human Development Want Ads until an RA opportunity became available that was of particular interest to me. Then, I simply emailed the professor involved with the project, filled out an application, had an interview, and was offered the RA.

3. What kinds of things did you get to do for your RA?

I was able to be involved in just about every step of the research process. There were weekly meetings held during which Dr. Martin, the other RAs, and I would discuss the different studies we were working on during the semester. We continually worked on the methodology for each of the studies, and each of the RAs was given opportunities to provide suggestions for how to improve, or “fine tune,” them.

In addition, I had the opportunity to run data collections. This was my favorite part. This involved actually carrying out the different studies we had planned. I thought it was especially enjoyable because it was great to see people completing the measures we spent so much time preparing. Afterward, I would code the data in SPSS. This process was especially helpful, as it allowed me additional practice with SPSS.

Beyond that, I completed a literature review on the subject of my choice. While the prospect of having to write a paper isn’t always exciting to students, I believe it was a great learning experience. It gave me the opportunity to spend time familiarizing myself with scientific literature, as well as hone my writing skills.

4. How do you think the RA related to what you have learned in your classes?

Generally speaking, it gave me a better understanding of the research process. Since so much of what is taught at UWGB is research driven, it is apparent that this increased understanding will be of use when considering how scientific knowledge is gained. In addition, it helped improve my ability to critically analyze scientific literature – a skill that will come in handy when completing research related class assignments.

I also feel that my experience in the RA program will be of use when completing my Honors Project/Independent Study. The RA provided an excellent example of the type of work that will be involved in developing my project. In essence, the RA was a “warm up” to the research process that I will be carrying out. I would highly recommend that anyone considering doing an Honors Project or Independent Study participate in the RA program first, as it will help them become more familiar with research as a whole.

5. How important has this RA been to your educational experience at UWGB, and why?

Quite important. The experience has proved to be an asset not only when completing the coursework, but also in other projects, such as my Independent Study, as well as the internship that I am currently involved in. I strongly believe that I am a much more competent student than I was before doing the research assistantship, and this has helped enrich my educational experience here at UWGB. I also believe that the improved experience while doing my undergraduate work will also help me become a stronger graduate student. Thus, I believe the experience will pay off both immediately and in my future endeavors as well.

Editors’ Note: Wondering about getting a research assistantship of your own? Read the faculty profiles on the Human Development and Psychology websites to learn who typically works with RAs. These profiles also provide information about the research topics of interest to these professors. As registration time draws nearer for the next semester, you can also check out the department “Want Ads” to see if any openings are listed. Not all faculty members will list their opportunities there, so you should also feel free to contact professors directly to see if they are looking for RAs and find out how to apply.