Reflection by: Elisabeth Kalomeris, Psychology '18
At the end of my senior year, I participated in the Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference (PURC) at the University of California in Los Angeles. I presented my undergraduate thesis to students and faculty from universities across the United States. Through this experience, I gained a new appreciation for my own research and the amazing Psychology department that guided me.
Although I can now summarize my research in five minutes, I spent a year developing the project. An honors thesis is often a student’s first independent research endeavor. This was true for me, as well. However, once I embarked on this project I found that there was plenty of support available to me. I had a wide support network, including meetings with my thesis advisor, advice from graduate students, or even encouragement from fellow undergrads.
My experience at PURC also highlighted the importance of research communication. In my research, I examined how adults’ decisions change as they age, in the context of charitable donations. When I first developed my project, I found it difficult to summarize pages and pages of literature, theory, experimental design, and analysis. Experiences like the Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium (RURS) and my thesis defense allowed me to synthesize this research into a format that was engaging and easy to understand. By the time I presented at PURC, I was confident in my ability to explain my research, to communicate the implications for further research, and convey the impact of my work. At UCLA, well-rehearsed presentations led to fruitful discussions, which in turn led to new insights into my project.
Presenting my work at PURC felt like the best way to wrap up a yearlong thesis project. After months of working independently, I could share my project beyond Rice, to the broader academic community. Before I presented, I was able to go around and see all the other work accomplished that year. We had all traveled from different states, even different countries, to share our work. In conversations about student projects, seeing how passionately students discussed their work, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of appreciation. My experience at PURC showed me that there is not only value in producing research as an undergraduate, but also in sharing your work and findings, even if it means going 1,500 miles outside of your way to do so.