Travis Vincent's Undergraduate Research Experience
"It provided an opportunity to translate my passive knowledge into active participation. Applying my four years of education
to a couple of projects was a great way to finish."
Your major (s): Economics, Russian
Your Minor (s): History, Russian Studies
Your Research Topic:
Two topics – The value of high school foreign language study within the US labor market (Economics); The “myth” of the Caucasus within Russian Literature (Russian)
Your Faculty Supervisor (s): Ranjan Shrestha (Economics); Clint Walker and Ona Renner-Fahey (Russian)
Briefly describe your research project:
The goal of my economics research was to learn if studying foreign language in high school would lead to a higher future income for a student. My Russian paper analyzed two works of romantic Russian literature and how they portrayed the culture of the Caucasus. I also analyzed a 2007 film which dealt with the same subject and how it brought the same discussion into the 21st century.
How did you become involved in research?
The economics department requires seniors to develop and complete an independent research topic on anything the student thinks interesting and deserving of attention. I used this opportunity to attempt to answer a question which genuinely interests me. I study languages and I would like to know how much my society values such a skill. Although value is, by no means, measured only in financial terms, this type of study hints at how much language can actually be used in someone’s future.
My research paper in Russian began in a class focusing on literature that dealt with the Caucasus. After several discussions inside and outside of class, I decided to write my term paper on a few themes that cropped up in many of the works discussed. At the encouragement of my professors I delved deeper into the subject. There is a considerable amount of Russian literature on the area that grapples with problems in the Caucasus that exist even today.
What was the most rewarding part of your research experience?
Presenting my research was perhaps the most rewarding aspect. Unlike other projects and papers that I have turned in for classes, I had a larger audience to show my results to.
What surprised you during the research process?
The amount of time that is spent on details was fairly surprising. The bulk of my research, did not take a great amount of time to produce. It was the fine tuning that every worthwhile project requires that was tough and took a greater amount of time.
What doors did participation in undergraduate research open for you?
I now have greater understanding of each of my topics and the methods used to perform this type of research. I could easily continue either of these studies in graduate education.
How has participating in research affected your undergraduate experience?
It provided an opportunity to translate my passive knowledge into active participation. Applying my four years of education to a couple of projects was a great way to finish. It was a good capstone.
What advice would you give incoming students about getting involved in research?
Research can be very rewarding, especially if you choose something that really interests you. Do not bother with a topic if it is a passing interest. Find out what it is you really want to study and then jump in.