What do you wish you knew when you started in research?

I wish I knew how common imposter syndrome was amongst undergraduate students in research! Working alongside and under brilliant researchers who have accomplished so much in their fields can often make you feel inadequate and as though you have nothing valuable to contribute, but remember that you are an undergraduate student just getting started in research like many other students and you are on a journey to learn (and labs definitely understand that). Everyone has to start somewhere! – Deea

I wish I knew that it was okay to be uncertain about what I was interested in. Everyone around me seemed to be very focused on specific questions and topics and this made me think that I also needed to be. I would often get asked what I was interested in and reply “umm everything…”. I wasn’t lying, I was really interested in everything. Don’t feel bad that you don’t know exactly what you are interested in or what you want to do. It takes time to figure it out and that’s okay. You might even decide that you don’t want to restrict yourself and that’s okay too! – Omran

I wish I knew how making mistakes is just a part of the learning process. Before joining the lab, I felt like I had to do everything perfectly. A few months into my time at the lab, I realized I made a coding error that resulted in some lost data. I was really nervous about it at first, but eventually we worked through the issue and continued on with the project. Through this experience I learned that making mistakes gives you an opportunity to evaluate how to improve the way you do things, and that it’s always best to just openly communicate about it rather than to try and hide it. – Kate

I wish I knew how much teamwork makes the dream work! It is difficult to ask for help sometimes, but utilizing your team as a resource can help prevent mistakes and data fatigue. You don’t need to figure anything out on your own, there is always someone who is able to help! – Chantelle

I wish I knew how welcoming the research community is! I have always been intimidated by people in academia, mostly because I didn’t feel like I had anything to contribute to the conversation. Through the lab, I have been able to meet and work with people in all different stages of academia. No matter how accomplished, everyone has been kind and supportive! I learned that the research community, especially your mentors, want to see you succeed! – Alessandra

I wish I knew how there is no rush to finding your path in research. Before, I thought I had to identify one area and stick to that for the rest of my life. However, as I started to explore different fields, I realized how each of them can offer unique and valuable experiences. I’ve also been inspired by established researchers who have chosen to switch gears even later in their careers. With an open, curious mind, the world is your oyster!  – Young Ji

I wish I knew that we did not have to know everything before joining a lab. When applying for my first lab, supervisors were reluctant to take me in due to my status as a first-year undergraduate student. That instilled in me a wrongful perception that we have to understand every nuance of psychology research before entering a research lab. In fact, being involved in lab work is in itself where practical research experience comes from, and I hope everyone could acknowledge that. – Leo