Benefits of Gaining Research Experience

by Sandi Ohman

Historically, research experiences have been designed for graduate and Ph.D. students, although recently, undergraduate students have been participating in research activities and benefiting in ways they were not expecting.  Studies show that undergraduate students who participate in research are gaining numerous tangible and intangible benefits from these experiences.

Chelsea Iwig is a graduate student in the Human Factors & Systems master’s program at ERAU.  Chelsea has been involved with conducting research both as an intern and as a student.  When asked how gaining research experience has helped her, Chelsea said, “Being involved in research has helped me to become a better writer, investigator, presenter and leader. The most recent project I have been involved in has required me to write several grant and conference proposals, learn how to obtain Institutional Research Board (IRB) approval and conduct studies, lead a team of undergraduate researchers, present my research at a regional and international conference, and write a paper to be published in the Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine journal. These are all things that I was never really able to become proficient at by simply relying on what I would learn inside the classroom because these are things that are best learned through actual experience. Also, being involved in research has also made me a stronger applicant for internships not only because of the papers I have written and the conference presentations I have made, but also because it has enabled me to network with professionals within the field of Human Factors.”

As Chelsea mentions, and studies like the one conducted by Osborn and Karustis (2009) from Missouri Western State University states, some of the tangible benefits include strengthening:

Communication skills:

  • Learning correct research paper writing methods
  • Presentation skills

Critical thinking skills:

  • Ability to understand information from other research studies and evaluate the data directly
  • Problem-solving skills

Technical skills:

  • Learn to set up and conduct research studies
  • Computer skills to analyze research data

Collaboration & Teamwork

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The intangible benefits are unexpected, including:

Greater satisfaction with education experience

Increase in GPA and course performance, due to deeper subject understanding

Increase in rate of degree completion

Higher percentage of post-baccalaureate education

Networking opportunities

Clear/more defined career paths

Increase in self-confidence

Research is not just for the future scientists, it is conducted across all industries and professions.  Research takes what students learn in class and applies those concepts.  Students have to conduct some type of research for many class projects.    Students from all degree areas can participate in research experiences.  Gaining this experience as an undergraduate student allows reaping the benefits sooner.  Opportunities can be available as early as a first year student, but is more common for juniors and seniors.

There are various ways students can become involved with research.  University faculty are often conducting research and writing papers and can use students to assist them.  Some internship opportunities are research oriented.  Students can learn and earn credit at the same time. Campus clubs or groups could provide research opportunities as well.

A program at ERAU where research is built into the requirements is the McNair Scholars program.  This is a Department of Education program, provided at ERAU and other universities, to underrepresented undergraduate students.  This program was established to “encourage and prepare students who are underrepresented in graduate education to pursue post-baccalaureate studies, better prepare for advanced degrees, and expand their educational horizons.”  Visit the McNair Scholars office for more information.

Within the last year ERAU has opened the Office of Undergraduate Research.  The office’s primary mission is to assist undergraduate students with research activities.  Funding is available to assist students with research projects that qualify.  At this time the office is located on the third floor of the Hunt Library.  Visit the office for a tour and for more information.

Research can provide students with a better understanding of their future career path, whether or not it involves research.  The skills learned through research will be used in a variety of ways during their careers, and can only make a student more marketable to employers.  It is an experience worth pursuit.

View the Career Services website for additional information on obtaining research opportunities.

Sandi Ohman is the Senior Program Manager in the Career Services Office at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  She has been with the university for over 9 years and has advised students in most all degree areas while in Career Services.  Sandi brings additional experience having worked in the finance industry for over 6 years in her previous career.  She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Florida, and her Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Central Florida. 

Virtual Internships

By Kristy Amburgey

Although not typical of the aviation, aerospace and related industries, virtual How-Virtual-Offices-Work_600x396internships are becoming more prevalent in some areas of today’s work fields.  Virtual internships can be thought of as “tele-work” or “tele-commuting” experiences, where everything you do is accomplished remotely.  The Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Co-op/Internship Program requires current students, who hope to earn credit hours for their experiences, to be present at employers’ sites for all co-ops or internships, so a virtual internship will not be considered part of the program for credit.  But additional, relevant work experience is still beneficial.  For students who don’t need to earn credit or the companies do not require them to earn credit, a virtual internship may be an option for you. Students in geographical locations not conducive to some industries, those who can’t make a temporary move or someone who enjoys self-directed work can explore virtual opportunities.  More common in career fields such as computer science, software development, sales/marketing, social media, publishing, and business, you can explore these virtual opportunities for personal and professional growth.

The Invisible Office: A Guide to Virtual Internships, by Ira Daniels, provides a good comparison and realistic picture of virtual internships.

Kristy Amburgey is the Associate Director of Career Services – Daytona Beach campus and currently manages marketing and employer relations for the department.  She has been with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for approximately 10 years and with Career Services for nine years.

CareerSpots Video Highlight: Keyword Search Matters

Embry-Riddle Career Services wants you to review CareerSpots videos, a series of visual resources to help with your internship/job search and career development.

Resume customization is an important topic when applying for positions.  By integrating keywords into your resume before applying through an online system, you give your resume a better chance of being selected from the online tracking system and getting into the hands of a hiring manager.

Sample resumes are available on the Career Services website.

WATCH Keyword Search Matters

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Organize, Optimize and Customize to Personalize Your Cover Letter

By Kristy Amburgeycover-letters

A cover letter is a beneficial tool that you should utilize as often as possible during your job or internship search.  In order to create an effective but personal document, you want to organize, optimize and customize your cover letter.

Organize

A good cover letter is an organized document where content flows from one point to the next in a concise manner.  It is recommended that you format your cover letter as you would a one-page business letter and that you use a three paragraph format.  Each paragraph will explain specific information in an organized and flowing fashion.

As a good rule of thumb, the first paragraph will introduce you to your audience, provide details about the job you are pursuing and then show why you are interested in the company and job.  The second paragraph will tell the employer exactly how you will help them achieve results.  Using your previous experiences and accomplishments, you want to establish three to four achievements that relate directly to the job you are pursuing, and you will use the job description and your knowledge of the company/job type to select the related accomplishments.  The third paragraph will close the letter and provide your contact information.

Even if you use different formats like an extra paragraph or a bulleted summary, you need to ensure that the organization of the document makes logical sense.  Keep the document succinct yet able to market your skills and accomplishments as related to the job.

Optimize

In order to get results from your cover letter, it should efficiently and effectively show an employer why you are the right candidate for the job, optimizing your most applicable and marketable skills.  The letter should be useful to a potential employer and provide actual details that matter to the reader.

In order to optimize your cover letter, you need to be accurate, provide information that is usable and make the document perfect.  That means that everything from the degree information to your outcomes achieved must be verifiably correct.  It also means that you need to provide the reader, your target audience, details that are relevant and not just list historical information that may or may not matter.  Finally, you need to make the cover letter perfect, meaning that the document should be error free, that everything is spelled correctly, that you are using proper grammar and that you have made it convenient for the person to find key information about you.

Take your time to optimize your cover letter to its fullest extent, giving the employer what they need to make a decision in your favor.

Customize

A cover letter should be customized for each and every job you pursue.  From the personalized salutation to the job description-identified content, you need to do your research and create a document just for that one job.  A generic document that you send en-mass is not an effective use of your time, and employers will find it hard to see value in this type of document since it is not really showing them beneficial information.

To customize a cover letter, thoroughly review the job description and understand the company culture.  Integrate key concepts that you find, matching your background, into the document.  To really customize the letter, take these steps.

  • After reading the description, highlight the key words, phrases or elements  on which you feel an employer would place the most value
  • Then, go back through your highlighted content and match these words to your background
  • Next, select three to four of those elements to integrate into the second paragraph of your cover letter as evidence-based stories, where you showcase your achievements as related to the employer’s needs

Your research and knowledge of the company can also show up in the first paragraph to help you produce a solid opening section.

By creating a document for a specific company and job, you are better able to help the employer see what you can offer them and how you might fit into their organization.  Customizing also shows an employer that you took the time to understand their needs and create something just for them.

Organize.  Optimize.  Customize.  Consider each of these actions as you compose cover letters.  It should be your goal to relate your experiences and accomplishments to the companies’ needs, making it easy for readers to see what you can do for them.  Ensure that each letter you submit achieves this goal.

Visit the Career Services website for additional cover letter information and samples.

Kristy Amburgey is the Associate Director of Career Services – Daytona Beach campus and currently manages marketing and employer relations for the department.  She has been with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for approximately 10 years and with Career Services for nine years.

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