Exploring the FRI Stream Sort Process with Dr. Ghanem

Written by JACOB ANDERSON As stream sort rears its head around the corner, many freshmen may have no idea how to approach stream sort for the Freshman Research Initiative. If this includes you, never fear, for the Catalyst is here to settle your uneasy mind. In addition to our comprehensive FRI overview with student feedback, the Catalyst also managed to get ahold of Dr. Eman Ghanem, Assistant Director of Student Experience of the Freshman Research Initiative. In the following interview, Dr. Ghanem talks about both what students should consider going into stream sort and the overall value of the FRI program.

Jacob: So, Dr. Ghanem. What do you consider to be the greatest strength of the FRI program? Dr. Ghanem: The FRI offers an opportunity for students to take research and integrate it into their schedule. In this way, they don’t have to be pursuing research as something extra so early in the process. Since it's so early on, too, students are able to decide whether research is something that they are interested in at all. It’s so much better to find this out during the first couple of years in college versus as a junior or a senior, or even in grad school!

Jacob: What do you say to students who are afraid of the idea of doing research? Dr. Ghanem: Afraid? Why are they afraid? Jacob: Well, it may seem too difficult or intimidating to some students. Dr. Ghanem: Well, one of the most important things in life is to face your fear—do research to not be afraid of research. Besides, there is no reason to be afraid. Students need lab credit anyways, why not get it through something that's more challenging and interesting rather than something with known outcomes? With the FRI model, students are not taking any risks. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. Students gain experience, community, course credit, connection to faculty…etc.

Jacob: What do you think a student should take into consideration when picking a research stream? Dr. Ghanem: They should pick something that interests them, yet keep an open mind about what they might enjoy. You never know what you might end up being interested in once you learn more about it. They should be open-minded in terms of research projects as well. Basic research sets the foundation for advanced research.  Scientists wouldn't have been able to investigate anti-cancer drugs if they didn't research the proteins and genes expressed in cancer cells. Keep an open mind, and find something you are, or may be, interested in. As a first year student, this is the time to explore other options and diversify your experiences.

Jacob: As a Research Educator (RE), what have you noticed about the students who go the farthest with the stream? Dr. Ghanem:  Those students are usually very interested in what they are doing—they put in an effort that is beyond the bare minimum of getting a good grade in the class. They own their project and are always suggesting and looking for new ideas. Some students continue as researchers and others as mentors. A good peer mentor is one who can communicate well, explain new concepts and techniques effectively, and maintain assertiveness about instructions and safety. They’re also reliable and on time.

Jacob: Is there anything else that your position as an assistant director of the FRI program has shown you? Dr. Ghanem: I am exposed to a very diverse population of students in terms of their interests and their future trajectories. Also, I see that no matter where a student is in FRI, they will build a foundation of skills and expertise that are useful for a lifetime, including asking the right question, experimental design, problem solving, and team work. You have to look at your data in terms of the big picture and how it will contribute to research in your field.

Jacob: Is there anything else you think the students should know about FRI or stream sort? Dr. Ghanem: I emphasize: keep an open mind with stream selection. Explore as many streams as you can. Once you learn more about a research field, you may change your mind about whether or not to pursue it. Ask as many questions as you can—be engaged with open houses. And finally, be on time with the sort and list streams that you are find interesting. If you're late, there's no guarantee you'll get into the steam of your choice!

Jacob: Thank you so much for your time, Dr. Ghanem! I hope the students keep your words in mind.

Do you, the reader, feel more prepared by Dr. Ghanem’s words for the stream sort now? Now, just be sure to check out our FRI Streams tab to read more about each stream! Like Dr. Ghanem said, there’s nothing to fear—just try it! And if you have any more questions for Dr. Ghanem, you can e-mail her at eghanem3@gmail.com or visit her in her office in PAI 3.04.

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