The Journey, Not the Destination: Scholar’s Advice for Making the Most of a REU

Life is a journey, not a destination – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Salvador collecting donated microscopes from the Medical Assisting Program for the Ivy Tech Engineering Society (IES).

This philosophy is why IN LSAMP supports and invests in scholars along their STEM Career path. Mentoring is provided from the beginning of the journey to the finish line preparing students to reach goals today and dreams tomorrow.

Salvador Valle Rodriguez, a pre-engineering student at Ivy Tech Community College, serves as an IN LSAMP Scholar. Through participation in the program, he discovered an opportunity to journey to Southern Illinois University to accomplish one of his goals of participating in undergraduate research. Research experiences for undergraduates (REU) supports active research participation by undergraduate students in areas funded by the National Science Foundation. This program supports students in ongoing research early in their education and is key to preparing students for the workforce. IN LSAMP builds on academic, social, and professional preparation so students feel confident participating in research outside of their home campus.

IN LSAMP provided a team of mentors to guide Salvador through the REU application process. Dr. Michael Hall, IN LSAMP Campus Director, managed academic and technical preparation, Jorge Lopez, IN LSAMP intern, managed professional development, and Michelle Quirke, Project Manager for IN LSAMP, supported the application writing and submission process. An accepted application is just the first step to a successful summer.

I have received so much support from a lot of people around me and I would like to do the same for future students. To achieve this, of course, my academic plans are to keep in school and work my way to a PhD and, subsequently, a Post-Doctoral (degree).

Valle worked in a lab researching electrodeposition of germanium telluride. He shares recollections from his journey. On his way to Illinois, he worried about expectations and what, if anything, he would be able to deliver. As it turned out, the actual outcome of the research was secondary to what Salvador learned about where he wanted to go with his future career path.

Salvador shared advice from his experience with the application process.

1. Apply early. Early application increases your chance of being selected for a project that aligns with your particular interests. Prepare by obtaining institutional responsible conduct of research certification such as CITI (The Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative Program)

2. Focus on your project but find time to learn other things. By broadening your focus, you may discover other interests and make valuable contacts in the scientific research community. Get out of the lab and learn about other aspects of research.

3. Don’t worry so much about results or accomplishments. Remember the experience and how it prepares you for your academic career is the goal.

4. At a practical level, understand your home-away-from-home living arrangements. Salvador found himself in living quarters without cookware. As someone who enjoys cooking, he values the comfort of a home cooked meal.

Salvador recommends maintaining an open and inquisitive mind, anticipate the unexpected and remember to take care of yourself while working away from home.

Back home, Salvador continues to practice this philosophy and stay involved with IN LSAMP and his campus network. When IN LSAMP Campus Director and Biotechnology Program Chair, Dr. Pappas, coordinated donation of microscopes from the Medical Assisting Program to the Biotechnology Department for students. Salvador picked up microscopes for club activities with the Ivy Tech Engineering Society (IES).


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