How to choose the right research topic for you?
Starting a life as a scientist includes many important choices but the most important one is the topic to which you will dedicate most of your time: your research line.
There are many ways to fall in love with a research line as a student. Sometimes after a good lecture or talk you just want to know more about the subject or you can almost feel deep inside you a magical feeling that you were born to study that topic. Other times you have family history or one important person in your life who gave you the motivation to pursue a very specific subject. But what if during your journey as a science student you never had that moment of insight and now you just keep wondering “What should I do”? Before you rush into something that you really do not want to study, here are 5 ideas on how to find the perfect research line for you.
1. Think about what you liked most as a child
Take a step back and think about your hobbies and interests as a child or teenager. Maybe you loved dinosaurs and now you are very interested in evolution. Or maybe you used to be curious about the night sky and now you want to understand more about astronomy. Sometimes we can find a lot of inspiration for our future path by reflecting on our past.
2. Familiarize yourself with potential job opportunities
Thinking about the future is as important as thinking about the past. Never forget to consider your future, professional self and imagine what path could lead to that vision of yourself. You can easily search the subjects that you are interested in and explore the job opportunities and skills related to it. It is a good exercise for you to reflect on whether or not the job positions look like something that you wish to do on a daily basis and if they are something that you are genuinely interested in. It’s always good to know the water before diving into it, right? Just Google it!
3. Reflect on the classes that you most enjoy studying
Try to determine the reason behind why you like a particular subject. Would you feel joy exploring this topic further? What opportunities could it bring to your future? This exercise is not so simple because it also involves some self-knowledge, but taking the time to reflect will help you tap into your inner compass and navigate a research path you will truly enjoy following. One simple thing to try as you get started is exploring scientific content and books on your own as this can help you to connect with a subject without the pressure of studying to pass a test.
4. Explore the possibilities
Put yourself out there! Go to events, seminars, talks, clubs and different classes. All universities are stronger in some topics than others, so attending events can help you find out what research opportunities exist at your institution. Explore your professors’ specialties and try to get familiar with all the possible doors that you could open during your journey.
5. Networking makes wonders
Sometimes talking to other people can open your mind to all sorts of ideas. Discover students that followed a path that you find inspiring, talk to them, ask them about what drew them to their research line and what they love about it. Maybe you can find a potential mentor for yourself, future inspirations, or even an interesting lab that you wish to work for.
Finding your purpose in life is like looking for love, we can only find it when you stop looking for it. But don’t forget to have fun searching for it! Don’t be afraid to try lots of different research topics as a student, there is no right or wrong when it comes to finding what you really want to do.
A little bit about guest writer Renata de Mello:
Renata de Mello is a biologist and an MSc in Biochemistry who works as a lab technician at KU Leuven (Belgium). Outside the lab, she can be found reading fiction books, cooking Brazilian food, traveling across Europe, and working towards her passion for science and communication.