Srabasti Dutta’s Reflections on Her Research Experience

  • srabastiLearned How to Apply Mathematical Theories
  • Boosted Confidence in Mathematical Abilities
  • Prompted Decision to Go to Graduate School in Applied Mathematics
  • Improved Writing and Communications Skills (Especially to Non-Mathematicians)
  • Improved Resume and Graduate School Admission Chances
  • Many National Summer Research Programs not Open to International Students

Before I started doing the summer research I had already taken classes in Differential Equations and Advanced Differential Equations. I had learned a lot about the theories behind all those differential equations, but I never learned how to apply them in the real world. The summer research was my first experience in learning how to apply my differential equations knowledge in the real world, and how to formulate a differential equation for a real problem. This was indeed a learning experience. I not only learned how to come up with any equations, but I learned how to look at a problem, think logically, come up with my own research question, apply my classroom knowledge to form the mathematical model, and then analyze it to see whether the model really works or not. I also learned, in the process, to face challenge.

In fact this learning experience was so great for me that I firmly decided to go to graduate school to pursue my doctoral degree in applied math. Before the summer research I was yet hesitant about whether I should go to graduate school, or to engineering school or to work. But, after the research I became sure that I wanted to go to graduate school. I became so firm in my decision because I not only found research interesting but also gained self-confidence in facing any challenge.

The research also helped me in improving my writing skills and taught me how to write a scientific paper (since we were required to write a final report at the end of the summer). Following the research I worked with the Kentucky Environmental Foundation (KEF) for a month as a intern. This research experience really helped me to complete the task which KEF gave me in my internship; namely, compiling and creating a report explaining all the mathematics applied in the Army’s Incinerator Risk Assessment Test. The research also helped to learn how to work cooperatively in a team, and how to be responsible for completing my assigned duties.

Besides the learning experience, the research also made my resume look impressive to the graduate committees in various graduate schools. I am going for a Ph.D. because I want to do research in the future. When I mentioned those things to graduate admission officers, they believed me because I had really done some research and knew what research is and how research is done. In fact, I visited quite a few graduate schools, and they all asked me about my research experience.

So, I think research should be made some sort of integral part of every student’s education. It not only makes you learn how to apply classroom and bookish knowledge to real world, but also help you get into good graduate schools. Most of the big graduate schools not only look at the research background of the applicant, but also look at how much publishing the student has done in scientific journals or magazines. So, students in Berea should not only be encouraged to do research but also possibly publish their works in some journals. And, since nowadays reputation and ranking of any college depends on how many students get accepted into graduate schools, and the type of schools they get into, so Berea students should be encouraged to do research so that they can get into good graduate school, and in the process make Berea better known. Doing research and publishing the report also make a college better known in the sense that readers come to know about the name of the college, and thus its reputation increases.

So, I think research is very important for students to do. People may say that there are lots of national research opportunities every summer. But, those are usually open to only few students; and, international students, such as myself, cannot participate in very many of those. So, Berea should try to encourage more research to help its students in the future life.