The Research Option - A Bridge to Graduate Study and Beyond

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Dianne K Palladino
Georgia Tech Alumna, Psychology '08
Doctoral Student at Carnegie Mellon University - Social and Health Psychology

Planning to attend graduate school can be a daunting activity. It can take months, or even a year or more, to collect everything necessary to complete a successful application. Sometimes even the most qualified are not admitted due to budget constraints and factors that are based little on the application credentials. It can be frustrating for students, but participation in the Research Option at Georgia Tech gives students an added advantage. This benefit applies not only to applying to graduate school, but also to success in a graduate program and beyond. I was part of the second group of students at Georgia Tech to complete the Research Option requirements, and I have found the experience instrumental in shaping who I am today.

There are many specific ways the Research Option helped with my personal and intellectual growth while at Georgia Tech. First, the process of discovering information about different faculty members and their research interests provided opportunities to practice my networking skills and led to quite a few strong relationships with faculty and other graduate students that I expect will continue far into our careers. This not only helped with my ability to obtain strong letters of recommendation for graduate school, but also will contribute to a strong professional network - something that is critical for emerging research scientists. Another advantage of working in a lab with current graduate students is that they have been through the admission process and have experienced time as graduate students. Their knowledge about how things work and their advice was extremely helpful as I made decisions regarding my graduate school plans. Participating in research hands-on was also the best way to confirm my passion. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had chosen the right career for me through my work in the lab. Others may find out that research is not for them, and that is just as valuable! I learned about the nuts and bolts of research hands-on, and was able to complete several projects from conception to publication and presentation. I was also fortunate enough to have been awarded both a President’s Undergraduate Research Award (PURA) salary grant and a PURA travel grant, which enabled me to get paid for the summer to do my research, and then to travel to a conference to present one of my papers. All of these activities provided a taste of what academic life would be like in the future, and the experience was invaluable to me.

The Research Option requires additional writing classes that are also very useful. My class was a small group comprised of students from all disciplines offered on campus. Since much of my work today is interdisciplinary in nature, it was valuable for me to learn about the different perspectives, cultures, requirements, and even formats of various fields, and I gained an appreciation for what types of challenges others faced when disseminating their research. I left with a strong "community" feeling toward research, which I hold today as I work with large groups of psychologists, doctors, nurses, statisticians, economists, engineers and others. It helps me take advantage of the differences among research disciplines, rather than be frustrated by them. The class also assisted with scientific writing skills, and this led to a better quality senior thesis for all of us - many of which ended up being published in peer-reviewed journals. I am certain that all of these experiences afforded by the Research Option program were critical to my successful admission to the graduate school of my choice.

Most importantly, the true test of a program’s success is whether or not it propels students into the future with a competitive advantage. For me, this was definitely the case! I worked as a researcher for a year before attending graduate school, and consequently, I have hit the ground running. I not only have the technical, theoretical, and statistical skills to be productive right away, but I also have had extensive time to think about my strengths and weaknesses as well as my interests and those things that I will leave for others to discover. I have had time to formulate many research ideas of my own, because I have spent time in the lab with experienced researchers, both faculty and graduate students, from whom I learned on a daily basis before I left my undergraduate studies. The Research Option was the most valuable experience I had at Georgia Tech. I strongly recommend it for all students, if not to prepare for a future job in research, then to prepare for a rewarding professional career.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Rachael Pocklington
  • Created: 10/07/2009
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016


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