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The newest issue of the Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research, Volume 7 (2017), debuts this week online and in print. This volume, like all previous volumes, is available online and open access. Below is a first-person account of an experience with undergraduate research and the subsequent publication process via JPUR with the student featured on the cover, Jack VanSchaik, who investigates spatial soundscape ecology on page 65 of the volume. The open access version of his article may be found here.


What is undergraduate research? I first heard about it at a Purdue summer biology camp during high school. Immediately, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue in college. After being accepted to Purdue, I was determined to participate in research my freshman year. However, it proved more difficult than I imagined, and at first, I was rejected due to lack of experience. Then it was hard to find a project that was compatible with my interests and coursework.

However, halfway through my freshman year I received a call from Dr. Mark Ward of the Statistics Department encouraging me to apply to his Sophomore Statistics Living Learning Community (LLC). I did and was accepted into what turned out to be a vital experience of my undergraduate career. Dr. Ward collaborated with professors from a variety fields and disciplines to create undergraduate-friendly research opportunities for LLC students. One professor’s project fascinated me. It was Dr. Bryan Pijanowski and his idea of soundscape ecology. Dr. Pijanowski introduced me to his lab, the Center for Global Soundscapes, where I found my undergraduate research project! I applied my newfound knowledge of big data from my LLC courses to my areas of interest: sound and the environment. I spent a year and a summer at Purdue completing my research project. This experience opened up doors for me to be involved in other projects at the Center, working on statistics, education, and community outreach. I ended up staying after my sophomore year at LLC to continue work on other projects.

When my research neared completion, I submitted it to the Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research (JPUR). I was extremely excited when my project was selected for a full article! It was reassuring to know that after so many hours, my research was worth publishing. However, there was still a lot of work to do. I had to format, edit, and finalize my article. Working with JPUR gave me the opportunity to experience something I had only heard about from Dr. Pijanowski, Dr. Ward, and so many graduate students—paper writing. Participating in the writing and publishing process gave me a glimpse into academic research and ultimately helped me decide to attend graduate school.

Not only did working with JPUR help me decide my future path, but there are several benefits to being published as an undergrad. Graduate schools notice an applicant’s research experience, and it demonstrates his or her capacity to produce publishable work. Similarly, it demonstrates to a company an applicant’s ability to see a substantial project through to its end. Moreover, getting one’s work published also can be a personal milestone. However, I think the most important benefit for publishing one’s research is for the science itself. Every piece of new knowledge, regardless of the field, academic standing, flashiness (the list goes on…), is important. Science is constantly driven forward by humanity’s pursuit of knowledge. Every pursuit of knowledge pushes science forward. When that pursuit stops, science stops, and that cannot happen!