“The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA. Without this, we would still be anaerobic bacteria and there would be no music.” — Lewis Thomas
Biology majors at Creighton have the opportunity to become involved with research work sponsored by willing science faculty throughout the University. Students with sufficient motivation, time and effort can conduct independent research projects that are presented at scientific meetings and may even be published.
We suggest that, as their first step, students considering doing scientific work learn something about what research involves and what opportunities are available. These pages can help with that process.
The nature of research
Research is different than laboratory coursework. Albert Einstein famously said, “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called Research.” This is true in more ways than you might imagine.
The reason scientists do research is to try to discover something new about the world. But the fact that we’re trying to do something for the first time means that, even if we know the goal of a project, we rarely know the exact path that will get us there. For every successful experiment, there are typically many failed ones. Sometimes the obstacles are intellectual (not knowing some key piece of information needed to design and execute the perfect experiment), sometimes they are technical (the experiment involves a tricky new technique that you just can’t get to work properly), and sometimes they are financial (the optimal experiment is too expensive, so you have to settle for cheaper but more tedious alternative approaches).
Overcoming these difficulties requires a high tolerance for frustration and a dedication to see the project through despite the many bumps in the road. Before you approach a faculty member about the possibility of working with him or her, you need to do an honest assessment of your motivations. If your primary motivation is simply to have research experience on your resumé when you apply to a professional school (medical, dental, etc.), then you would be better off spending that time on other activities, like shadowing, volunteer activities, or leadership roles. If you aren’t really interested in the project, if intellectual curiosity isn’t your main motivation, then the process will likely be a frustrating one for both you and your mentor.
On the other hand, if you enjoy the idea of a challange, if you're self-motivated, and if you're ready to dedicate significant time to your efforts, then you may find that research is rewarding in a way that regular soursework is not.