Yesterday, I officially finished my bachelor end project (BEP) and as my supervisors congratulated me, I honestly couldn’t believe that I had made it. BEP was an aspect of the bachelor’s degree I was frightened of and feared would not allow me to graduate. But here I am, having finished it off and sharing some insights I gained during the journey.
1. Professors are humans too
As a bachelor student who suddenly moved from high school to a university setting, professors may seem a little intimidating and hard to approach. This, along with the tough concepts they teach, may make us feel like they lead a very different lifestyle from any other human. During the Christmas activity of the research group I did my BEP with, I was in the same team as my supervising professor for an online scavenger hunt. Seeing her as a teammate deciphering codes is certainly a different perspective from hearing her feedback on my BEP findings. In another setting, I remember her talking about cats and another time about her five-year-old son. So professors aren’t defined by the faces we see on our screens in a lecture, but they lead normal ordinary lives experiencing various challenges and joys.
2. Take a break in the weekend
On one occasion I told my PhD supervisor that I would work on something over the weekend and show him the outcome on Monday. He replied, “No!” with quite a stern face. I was confused. “Try not to work during the weekends or the evenings after you leave university, Limi”, he said. This was unexpected to me, being someone who would feel guilty if I were not in the library in the weekend. But I took his advice and tried my best to get work done in the weekdays and take some time to reenergize during the weekend. Surprisingly this worked well and not only was I more efficient on weekdays, but Monday mornings felt fresher as well.
3. You are in charge
I had the freedom to go to the lab or the office whenever I wished to. No one tracked my hours, and no one marked attendance. This comes with a certain responsibility that if you want to finish your BEP on time, you better start planning. Planning what experiments to do, when you want to do them, whether the lab and the required devices are available, having progress meetings with your supervisors, and many more. Having freedom and flexibility always comes with a certain level of responsibility and independence.
4. It’s not just about science
In your BEP, you obviously learn about your field of topic but the every day experiences being part of a research group teach you other lessons as well. How do you have lunch with a new group of people in the coffee room? What do you talk about with your colleagues who you share your office with? How do you greet others when you see them in the corridor? Do you offer tea to your office mate or is that too much? I have had some lovely and insightful conversations about many topics including dieting, veganism, non-technical studies, and many more with some new friends I made during these two months! Along with technical skills, BEP is also an opportunity for us to work on our social skills.
5. No one has the answer to your research question
Might sound redundant, but you are the expert of your project. In most of our “normal” bachelor courses, the answers to our questions are known in the field. The point of research however is that the answer is not known, and the very aim of the project is to make a (small or big) step towards drawing closer to certain conclusions. Of course there may be questions our supervisors may ask to test us but the results we find are also new to them, so what is more significant is whether we can explain our findings or not.
Doing your BEP is certainly a valuable experience and a slight peak into how the world looks like being part of a research group. Expand your network and have interesting conversations about matters outside the box. Most importantly, enjoy your time doing research and picking up on the many everyday lessons that come with it. Good luck!