Professional Development: Researcher and Speaker

 

Hello Everyone!
Past two years, I was involved in variety of organizations: Society of Physics, McKearn Fellowship, Research Rookies, Themed Learning Communities. I would admit the fact that it was challenging and sometimes I had a tendency to abandon everything in my todo list and dive into a bed or go for a walk. However, the experiences that I cultivated through these programs developed many essential skills that will be profitable when I start working in a company or professional career. Through mentoring, I developed my communication starting from beginning the conversation, to organizing the event to make it fun. Through fulfilled environment, I maintained the grit and determination to complete the task and remain organized. With the interaction with highly motivated students, I was able to not only re-boost my motivation for my passion, but also shifted more toward optimistic, and less from stressful environment. I am planning to strengthen my knowledge, but also focusing on communication skills. After experiencing to give a speech at different ceremony and events, I realized how one speech can make myself memorable to everybody. Since my research goal is to improve the physics education and make people relize that “Hey, we are doing something wrong in terms of teaching phyiscs!” it is essential and beneficial for me to improve my public speaking skills, and McKearn Fellows program provides me countless opportunities to put pressure on me and allow me to grow not only as a researcher, but also as a speaker.

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End of the Year: Thank You

Hello again!

 

URAD went very well, and it was such a fun day! This year, I honestly enjoyed watching presentation by my mentees more than my presentation. I was fortunate to go to every single one of my mentees presentation, and there are vast variety of presentation methods that added more insight on how I should present. I know that they started from nothing, and accomplished this amazing amount of work. My presentation? Well, it wasn’t the best, but I think I represented myself as a second year experienced research rookies.  One of the highlight is that my clicker stopped working again, then came back immediately. It was interesting because I usually have technical issues, and this incident was added to my list of “Technological malfunction during the presentation.” The challenge that I faced was not to cry during my mentees presentation. Their inspiring, passionate and deliberative presentation simply touched my heart and sent message to my brain saying “Hey, they are pretty amazing, you better loosen up your lacrimal gland. Are you ready to cry?” and my reflection went through my body saying “No no no, you can’t do that. They will lose focus if one awkward asian begin crying in the middle of the presentation.”

 

I am feeling the lonely feeling, because everything was over. In the end of the president dinner that happened the next day of the URAD, my mentee gave me some comment about my mentoring, and it was very sweet. I could not enjoy this year’s research without their willingness to enjoy. I could not laugh this much without their joke and humor. I could not be confident without their warm comment of my achievement. I could not, I could not, I could not…. So Research Rookies, if you are having trouble or difficulties, find someone who can trust. Who can talk about the strange story happened during the weekend. Who can listen to you and give advice or make a joke from that story. Who can laugh, smile and enjoy the activities with you. And make sure, appreciate how lucky you are if you already have one. The appreciation does not have to be long letter, expensive gift, or speech. Simple and easy word “Thank you,” would make them feel comfortable, and confirm that they are doing the right thing for you.

 

Thank you, everyone.
Wataru.

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Was, am and will be.

Hello everyone!

 

Looking back to last year, I was both nervous and excited to make a poster. What should I put on? Which graph should I use? How can I make it easier to read? Why should I put this sentence instead of this? Where should I put my diagrams? When should I start practicing my poster presentation? This year, it was less nervous, and more excitement. Compared to last year when I was suffering due to the amount of material I can put, I am happy to select the material out of gigantic data set. There are so many graphs and charts that I would like to include in my poster, in a limited space. Therefore, I had to say goodbye to some of my graph, it was a sad moment. “But don’t worry, you will have a chance for oral presentation” I said, to my excel spreadsheet. My next step as an undergraduate is to continue my research, but in a different institution. I will be joining a research group in other university, and possibly having a collaboration. Since my research was only conducted at NIU, having an experience in different institution with different group of professionals would provide me an amazing insight. I cannot wait for the summer to come, but I cannot stand for the Research Rookies to end at the same time.

 

Speaking of Research Rookies, let me give you my final reflection. In terms of time management, it was indeed a challenging academic year due to the amount of organization, programs and extracurricular that I am involved in. However, I enjoyed it. I liked the moment when I saw that all of my error analysis for the data was wrong. I laughed at the moment when my mentee shoot ball 8 in the hall at the first break. I appreciated when I saw my mentor fixed my poster despite his busyness. I relish the time of spending 8 hours straight looking at the data and realized it was already 2 in the morning. Without Research Rookies, I would not be able to get involved this much, interact with amazing people, and take a leadership role in variety of fields.

 

I would like to extend my appreciation to many people. First one are my mentees. Despite my unprofessional attitude (i.e. late to a mentee group meeting,)  not-helpful mentoring (i.e. forget to ask about how they are doing in their research during the group meeting because I was too fascinated to their weekend story,) and immature actions (i.e. got too excited during the walleyball and could not stand losing to somebody, and same for my mentee, and it got chaotic) they were almost always present for my group meeting, asked me questions, used me as a resource, and showed warm attitude during the conversation. I certainly cannot say I am a great mentor, but I can definitely say they are the amazing mentees.

Next is the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning. Without their dedication and contribution to help students to have successful careers, I could not be here. I would especially thank Lauren Anglin for her amazing work, such as performing a full time job as a part time worker, at the same time balancing with organization, programs and class. She always understand that peer mentors are somewhat busy people (compared to her, I am not even close to busy) and make the meeting to a manageable length. Thank you OSEEL, and Lauren!

Last but not least, I would like to say thank you to my mentor, Dr. Michael Eads for his help. He is always extremely responsive to my email, flexible when I had not enough work done, caring to help my poster, and inspirational for me. Because his job, I even changed my career goal from a high school physics major to a physics professor with continuing my Physics Education Research. I cannot count how many recommendation letter he wrote for my applications, and how many email I sent him to ask question, forward email, and seeking for help. He also provided me the summer research opportunity at different institution. There’s not so much things I can show an appreciation to him, so I would like to say thank you, and present my work at URAD to show how much I have done.

 

Since I am still a sophomore, it is difficult to imagine my future, but I will certainly attend graduate school with Ph.D. in physics education. I am interested in Colorado Boulder university that has the best physics education research program among the nation, and some other universities such as Main, Maryland, Washington, and Arizona State. My dream job was used to be a high school physics teacher, but now it is a physics professor. (When I was a kid, I was also interested in to become a president of the school, but I realized that I like to teach rather than regulate the school) Research Rookies has definitely prepared me for my dream, because having four years of experience in research as an undergraduate is an advantage for me when I apply for college. In addition, having connection with so many motivated student gave me an even more opportunities. Overall, research rookies was, is and will be an amazing program, and I am happy to support in the future to give back.

 

Thank you for reading!

 

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March Blog Post

 

My mentor Dr. Eads always provide me the advice on my research topic, career goals and possible ideas. He never force me to follow what he is passionate about, but he always expand the area of what I am passionate about. In fact, I started out with the goal of high school physics teacher, but since I started performing research, I am now split in half between grad school to perform more research and become professor or high school teacher. His organization skill and response speed is always surprisingly sophisticated. I chose him, and I am continuing my research because he always help and support me with the passion of “I want to help students.” I would like to thank Dr. Michael Eads for his amazing contribution and dedication to the undergraduate student who did not know anything about research.

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Wrapping Up, Narrowing Down

Hello Everyone!

 

My research is starting to reach the level of wrapping up. I want to do more work and data analysis, but because of time restriction, I need to cut off some of the aspec and began summarizing the results. Last year was building the foundation for my research, and this year has been the expansion of my research. Therefore, I will be definitely done by the end of the month, or the beginning of April. The only worry is choosing which section I need to eliminate and which section I need to emphasize.I still need to re-analyze the data and talk about the result with my mentor to ensure the dense discussion. I am really excited not only to present my research, but also listen to other students’ research, especially my mentees.

 

The idea of research has not changed much for me compared to last semester. However, the idea of mentoring has changed a lot. It has been a great semester. I was not a big fan of social event among the mentor and mentee, because it is usually a little awkward and get into the situation of I-don’t-know-what-to-talk-about. However, I always enjoy my group meeting and group activities. I can easily visualize the memory from past year, and the amount of knowledge that I learned from my mentee. The Research Rookies has helped me to understand the importance and joy of research, and create connection with other motivated students. This mentoring experience will definitely help me since I am planning to pursue teaching licensure program and become a teacher.

 

Thank you for reading!

 

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Research

 

I have been continuing my research since my Freshman year. The difficulties that I am encountering is the time management. Since I am in variety of programs and organizations, I sometimes have difficulty focusing on the research. There were a day where I eat food, check my email, read the news, listen to lecture and take notes at the same time. I understand multitasking is not an effective way to complete the task, so I usually do not do that, but sometime I am forced to do multi-tasking.

In the end of my senior year, I am hoping to have a published data from my research. Since I started from my Freshman year, it will be four year long project. Therefore, I am really excited to see how it will look in the end.

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Learn, Enjoy and Laugh:Experiences with my mentor, research and my mentee

Hello everyone!

 

I think you are feeling little overwhelmed with what I am doing at Research Rookies, and what my research topic is. Therefore, let’s get into the different perspective for my today’s blog: my mentor, my summer, and about me as a Research Rookies Peer leader.

 

If I would choose a word to describe my mentor, he is simply amazing. It is so vague, but I cannot use too specific word to limit how amazing he is. Starting from rapid email response speed, passion about the subject, availability for the question and concerns, humor to make the conversation smooth and natural, generosity to write more than 10 reference letters for the programs that I applied, and strong energy and enthusiasm to help students. I am extremely delightful to have him as my mentor, because without his support, I would not be able to continue my research when I face obstacles. His positive attitude and caring support always helped me to move forward and keep going. That is why even when we found out an potential error in our data, I can redo my steps and keep track on my research without any huge issues. Therefore, my research is going well, almost because of my mentor.

 

For the summer, I am still waiting for many responses. It is possible to have summer research in different institution, but it is up to my mentor’s communication with other professors, so I am trying to find other options by myself too. Also, I applied for an internship, so it also depends on that result. I am hoping to attend AAPT conference during the summer and get to know many Physics Teacher or Physics Education Researchers! Either way, it would be a summer with full of learning and opportunities. Moreover, I hope I can review my physics classes that I learned during the semester to solidify my knowledge about basic physics before I enter the higher level physics.

 

And now, it is about me. I am still in a huge surprise about the fact that I am already approaching the end of sophomore. My mentor was saying that it feels like yesterday when he met me first on the orientation day. And I enjoy the nostalgic feeling of the honors retreat event during my freshman year, when I was astonished with the amount of program and organizations that upper class honors student were participating while enjoying social life and maintaining academic performance. It is ironic that now I am almost reaching that “highly involved” “When do you sleep?” or “How many Wataru are at NIU?” level of involvement. Based on what I know, I do not have many strength, but if I would choose one, it would be an organizational skill. Somehow, I managed to join 6 different programs at NIU, four of them with leadership position, while maintaining high GPA, socializing, research and at least 7 hours of sleep each day without skipping a meal. To be honest, I sometimes forget that I am in this much programs, and when I sat down and think about it, I simply doubt I have done this much work. What I enjoy about my life is that there will be always something or somebody who will bring me back to normal when I become over-confident. My weakness is that I sometime enter the state of “Wait, may be I am actually pretty decent student?” and then immediately struck down by denial letter or somebody who is high more achieving amazing goals than me, and I go back to the original state of “I need to work harder.”

 

As a peer mentor, I cannot believe how much I gained from my mentees since I started interacting with them. To be honest, I thought mentor mentee relationship is one way, where I give them something. But in real life, it was completely opposite, and I am so grateful to have my mentees. They always makes me challenge more and enjoy the life. As a mentee, I would like to improve my language skill this semester. I did not have strong motivation to improve or revise my English skill these years since I always ask for help to the writing center and check my grammar. However, I realized the need for improving when I need to revise something for somebody else. Also, my mentor always have witful conversation and it is little shameful for me when I cannot reply with thoughtful sentences. Therefore, I started watching some show and reading grammar book. Hopefully, one day I can have better English skill!

 

Thank you for reading!

 

Wataru

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