The following is the transcript of an interview conducted with Greg Rice.
1. Give a brief description of your research:
During the summer of 2009, I participated in the REU program at Oregon State University’s Department of Mathematics. My research focused on investigating mixing times for several random walks with internal states, a topic in probability theory.
2. What do you like about research?
In general, research is a process intended to expand upon the knowledge of a given subject or problem, and conducting successful research can be a very fulfilling accomplishment. But for me personally, conducting research gave me a new perspective of what I want to do with my future, and it allowed to expand my knowledge of the subject. I also met some really great people who share a passion for mathematics.
3. What are your struggles with research and what have you done (if anything) to overcome these struggles?
As one might expect, solving new or unsolved problems can be extremely difficult, and I often found myself stuck and frustrated. But thankfully research is seldom conducted alone, and I always had great advice from my research team and mentor to keep me motivated and moving forward.
4. Did you work closely with a mentor? If so, what are the benefits you have gained from this kind of relationship?
During my research experience, I worked under a professor in the math department at OSU. Having this sort of relationship is indispensable. He was always there to help me along during the research experience, and after we finished, he knew exactly what my abilities were and was able to write a great letter of recommendation for graduate school.
5. What are the benefits, in your opinion, of participating in undergraduate research?
Undergraduate research gives one the opportunity to try research in an area as career option. Conducting research also allows you to meet people with similar interests and develop meaningful connections with professors who can help fast-track your academic career. Also, if you are researching in an area which enjoy and with the right people, research can be a lot of fun too!
6. What advice would you give other undergraduates seeking research or preparing to participate in research for the first time?
Go for it, and don’t be afraid! Conducting research as an undergraduate is a great way to learn about what your interests truly are and what you want to do with your future. If you end up not liking it, then at least you learned what you don’t want to do for the rest of your life. And if you do like it, you can explore the subject further. It’s a win-win! Also, you usually get paid very well and get to meet some really cool people, which only sweetens the deal.