Lindsay Taraban is one of hundreds of undergraduate researchers whose work is being featured as part of Research Week 2012, the University of Texas at Austin’s fifth annual celebration of undergraduate research. Research Week showcases the exciting research and creative work undergraduates perform on the UT Austin campus. It also introduces students to the possibilities for participating in the research mission of the university, and helps connect them to opportunities to get involved in research across a variety of fields.
Name: Lindsay Taraban
Majors: Psychology and English
Research Topic: Self-Explanation and Young Children’s Understanding of Relational Nouns
Faculty Supervisor: Dr. Catharine Echols
Briefly describe your research project
Self-explanation is a learning tool that’s been demonstrated to be effective at helping grade-school children understand and solve complex problems in math and sciences. My research explored whether this tool would also help young children and whether it would be helpful for language-based tasks (instead of math/science).
What was the most rewarding part of your research experience?
It’s hard to say—I loved so much about the experience. I think my greatest gain, though, was that through the work I did on my honors thesis, I learned that I genuinely love research and feel confident this is what I want to be doing for the rest of my life.
What surprised you during the research process?
Everything takes 10 times longer than you anticipate it will. You can have what you consider to be a foolproof plan and then once you get to ironing out the details, you realize there are all these challenges you haven’t accounted for. Then just when you think you’re on top of everything, something new comes up. You have to budget A LOT of time and energy into conducting a research project (totally worth it though!).
How has participating in research affected your undergraduate experience?
It has been the highlight of my time at UT. I understand a lot about the nitty-gritty of the research process; I feel more confident about my graduate school applications, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
How do you think getting involved in research will be helpful to you in the
I think I will be able to get into a better graduate program than I would have otherwise, and I will be more confident going in. I know now what it’s like to conduct research—I know what I will be getting myself into—and I know that it is what I want to be doing!
What advice would you give incoming students about getting involved in
Do it! Even if you’re not planning on going to graduate school, it can be a hugely positive experience and you will learn so much! UT is a major research university—your professors are doing cutting-edge work, so pick an area of interest and get involved. If you’re unsure, I’d suggest volunteering in a faculty lab for a couple of semesters and see what you think of it. Doing an honors thesis is a major commitment, so you want to make sure you’re willing to put the effort in. It’s incredibly rewarding, though!
Colleges, departments, research units, and student organizations from across UT Austin participate in Research Week by hosting events and participating in the Longhorn Research Bazaar. Students, faculty, and staff are invited to attend research-oriented events hosted across campus, ranging from poster sessions in which students are on hand to talk about their research projects, to oral research symposia, to showcases of creative work, to panels, forums, and workshops focusing on various facets of the research process. At the Longhorn Research Bazaar, academic units and student organizations come together at a festive, outdoor event that introduces students to the research-related resources and opportunities available at UT Austin. A poster session at the Bazaar gives students from across a variety of colleges and schools the chance to present their research to a campus-wide audience. The Office of Undergraduate Research in the School of Undergraduate Studies and the Senate of College Councils work together each year to host the event.