Pascal offers tips on how to begin undergraduate research

Award-winning researcher and assistant professor of chemical engineering at Tennessee Tech, Jennifer Pascal, began undergraduate research early in her college experience.

Pascal offered tips and upcoming opportunities to begin undergraduate research with students of all majors Oct. 30. Undergraduate research is an opportunity students can take to gain college credit, build their resume and help to narrow their career path.

This year, Tech launched a new TEAM undergraduate research mechanism in which students may work in pairs. For up to a year, a maximum of $5,000 grant funds is available for research involving more than one undergraduate student.

Pascal encourages students to choose a professor and start asking questions.

“You can ask us anything. ‘How do you manage your research?’ ‘How many people are in your group?’ ‘How often do you meet with students?’ All of these questions are important to know,” said Pascal. “Undergraduate research is half about research and half about your interaction with your professor.”

“You need to find a professor that interests you,” said Cesar Contreras, president of the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers (SPHE). “I chose mine because he was really energetic and kept my attention.”

Professors look for undergraduate researchers who are self-motivated, patient, energetic, hardworking, careful and diligent.

“Grades aren’t everything. They are important, but they’re not everything,” said Pascal. “I’ve seen students with a 4.0 GPA who aren’t great researchers, and I’ve seen students with a 3.2 GPA who are phenomenal researchers.”

SPHE announced a future meeting with Cummins Inc. speakers in collaboration with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Students who attend gain exposure to several Fortune 500 companies including General Motors and Honeywell as well as the Army and NASA.

SPHE attended the Volkswagen tour in 2014 where three of the 250 student applicants were selected for extreme engineering, which landed them a full-time position.

Pascal reminds students that research is a slow process.