We met with Distinguished Undergraduate Researcher, Zoe Barbeau, to talk a little about her undergraduate research experience at UCF. She is currently conducting research with Dr. Nina Orlovskaya in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
First, we asked Zoe how she got started with her most meaningful research project. She said, “I was taking a course with Dr. Orlovskaya and she mentioned in class that she needed help with research. So I talked to her about getting involved and started what has been my longest research project.” You might have heard similar stories, since many faculty members let students in their courses know about potential research positions.
Another cool experience that Zoe shared was from her summer off-campus research experience this past summer: “This summer I went to the University of Colorado at Boulder for an NSF REU, and I got to see the Rocky Mountains.”
You may be wondering, what is an NSF REU? Learn more here: https://academicsuccess.ucf.edu/our/current/summer-off-campus-research/
Undergraduate research is a rewarding experience, but it isn’t always easy. Zoe shared the following advice for students currently in research, “Don’t be discouraged if everything goes wrong or you feel like you aren’t making progress. Your hard work will pay off.”
“At the end of the day, when I have a successful experiment and get results, it feels awesome. Hard work takes you there, even if it takes a while.”
Zoe also talked a bit about why she enjoys working with her mentor, Dr. Orlovskaya, saying that her faculty mentor isn’t concerned so much with getting results, but instead on learning. “She wants research to be a learning experience for me,” says Zoe about Dr. Orlovskaya. “Research is an important step in my career, so I know that what seems tough now is just a step in becoming a professional scientist.”
Speaking of careers, Zoe plans “to go to graduate school and then work in a national lab, such as with the Department of Energy, as a lead researcher. Research defines these goals; for me, it’s about becoming a researcher.”
Research has been a meaningful experience to Ms. Barbeau, giving her the chance to travel across the country, learn to be a scientist, and prepare for her career.