Undergraduate – Jake Abel
Your name and what is/was your background (what is your major, why science, etc)?
My name is Jake Abel. I studied Physics at Washington State University and was attracted to the field because I was amazed at how well Mathematics could be utilized to describe the world we live in. As time went on, I began looking for ways to directly apply what I was learning, and developed an interest in Electrical Engineering as well.
Why did you decide to join a research lab? How did the experience compare to what you had expected?
I joined a research lab because I was looking for a way to become involved in a project where I could contribute from the Physics/EE perspective and gain direct, hands on knowledge how to use what I know to solve problems. I was able to do this and also developed several new skills during my time in the lab.
What was cool, exciting, or most interesting about your time in the lab?
For me, I was developing technology for other people to use as opposed to running the experiments myself. From this experience, the most exciting thing for me was watching a working system function exactly as I had hoped it would. Being able to see the results of your work is very rewarding.
If there is something in particular you learned or discovered that you’d like to share with others, please take a moment to tell us about it.
The biggest thing I learned is that nothing will ever happen as fast as you would like. It becomes a matter of continuing to progress as best you can to try to achieve the desired result.
If you would recommend conducting research in a science lab to others, what would you tell them to get them interested in the idea?
If you can get a position as an undergraduate researcher, by all means go for it. You will experience an academic lab and how it functions on top of learning valuable skills that you can utilize in graduate school or industry.
We’d love to know what you’re up to, so please give us a brief description of where you are working or going to school now.
Currently I am working on a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering at Purdue University with a focus on automated control systems.
Did the lab experience help you with your classes or your perspective about science? Did working in the lab help you with developing other skills like time management or communication?
My experience didn’t help with my classes too much because I was in a lab outside of my field, but it did give me better perspective of interdisciplinary research and how different skillsets can work together. As previously mentioned, it did teach me how to handle set backs in projects when something unexpectedly fails.
Was there anything in particular you would have liked us to do different to enhance your learning or interest from the time spent in the lab?
I personally wasn’t working under a grad student directly so it wasn’t always the clearest to me what was going on at all times. I would say to just stay on top of your undergraduate researchers so they can maximize their time and productivity in the lab.
Do you feel better prepared for the workplace or future academic endeavors as a result of your time in the lab?
I do. I feel that now that I have designed and built systems that I am familiar with many of the unteachable components of running a project and how to handle it.
Any other comments?
If you are an undergraduate in Science or Engineering, it is very much worth your time to seek out a lab opportunity and follow through with it. You will gain valuable insight into an academic lab and possibly earn a couple of good letters of reccomendation from it or even a paper.