Many students might be pleased to find that K-State provides several opportunities outside the classroom to gain real world experience.
Research jobs are offered every year to both undergraduate and graduate students and, contrary to popular belief, are not limited to science majors. Departments all across campus give students the chance to interact and learn from their professors in various research projects, and have the added bonus of compensation.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I came to college,” said Neema Prakash, sophomore in biology. “By working there I’ve realized that I’m really interested in cancer because right now I’m doing cancer research. The projects they’ve given me have led me into the field I want to work in. By doing research work, you learn so much more about your major and you create a lot of relationships with older people.”
Prakash began working as a lab assistant for the K-State biology department when she was just a senior in high school. After a year of cleaning dishes and assisting with other students’ research projects, she worked her way up to the position of lab researcher with her own project, working with tomato plants for lipid research.
“They [professors] have helped me choose my classes and helped me realize exactly what I want to do, which has led me on the path I’m taking right now,” she said. “I feel like if you’re surrounded by other people in biology, they help you grow up and motivate you to do well in school.”
Michael Kanost, head of the department of biochemistry, described Prakash’s cleaning and researching jobs as the two types of work available to students.
“We hire some people to do lab chores like cleaning glassware and taking care of plants and insects,” Kanost said. “Another kind of work is for students to do their own experiments and be part of a research project where they do real research and learn new things about biochemistry. Graduate students are employed as graduate research assistants doing research that they’re paid for, but [the research] is also part of their work to make a thesis or dissertation for their degree.”
Kanost said there are roughly 20 undergraduate students working on research projects in the biochemistry department. Students can obtain such positions by contacting their professors and expressing their interest in a project.
It is likely that an unpaid position will develop into a paid part-time job if the professor has space available and the student remains interested, Kanost said.
“It’s great experience for learning how research works, not reading about it,” he said. “It’s doing the experiments and learning from professors and other people who work in the lab. The undergrads learn from the grad students and they work together. It helps the grad students learn how to supervise someone and teach another person how to think about science, and the undergraduates benefit from being part of a real research project.”
Richard Ott, head of the department of accounting, said they hire two graduate research assistants to aid professors in their research endeavors. This paid, part-time job ranges from inputting data for statistical analysis, to financial and auditing research.
These jobs are beneficial to the department because it frees up valuable time for the professors to work on the project, but is especially beneficial for the students, Ott said.
“They’re exposed to research methods and then obviously there’s compensation, but the big thing is they get the opportunity to work with very bright, qualified faculty,” he said. “It exposes them to the different research problems that we run into in accounting because people don’t always think to associate research with accounting. There’s all different kinds of research. It gives them a perspective and exposes them to databases and research methodology.”
Similar to accounting, the biochemistry department also benefits from student research jobs because it provides extra help to complete the projects, Kanost said. He also said that student research jobs help the university supplement classroom education.
“It’s also part of what we do as a university, to teach our students about their field and how to do the skills that they’re going to need later on,” Kanost said. “So it benefits the department because it’s part of our mission to educate students, and it provides workers who become more and more skills that generate good results.”