Highlights from the McNair Summer Research Experience: Reflections on Berkeley

Over the last couple of weeks, the UNL McNair Scholars have participated in a number of academic forums to share their research.  As one of many capstone events, the scholars presented their summer research projects to students, staff, and faculty at the UNL McNair Research Colloquium. One week later, they traveled to Berkeley, California to attend and present at the University of California-Berkeley National McNair Conference. For many of the scholars, this was their first time presenting at an academic conference and they had much to share about their experience.

To capture the scholars experience at Berkeley from beginning to end, the scholars were asked to complete a small survey. Some of their responses are listed below:

What were your thoughts heading to Berkeley?

Bridget Agnew shared, “I was nervous because I was not sure what to expect.”

Daniel Sotelo stated, “I was nervous. I was concerned about the quality of my research compared to the other scholars.”

Joseph Tran questioned, “How amazing will everyone else’s research be?”

What were some of your first impressions when you arrived at Berkeley?

Eric Harmes expressed, “There were more scholars then I had anticipated.”

Joseph Tran shared Eric sentiments as he stated, “I was amazed at the number of attendees, and I felt very small.”

How did the McNair Summer Research Experience (MSRE) help to prepare you for Berkeley?

Maggie Gossard reported, “The MSRE really gave me the opportunity to take baby steps toward a big goal. I think that going through multiple drafts and getting feedback along the way really allowed me to be confident about the quality of my work.”

Moses Pacheco stated, “MSRE allowed me to collaborate with my research mentor and engage with my peers to better articulate my research to others. I was organized and ready to present.”

As you were presenting, how did you feel?

Ross Benes shared, “I felt nervous during the first few minutes, however as time went by, I really got into my presentation.”

Maggie Gossard stated, “I felt empowered knowing that I was contributing to a bigger academic discussion about a topic that I am passionate about.”

Besides relief, how did you feel after your Berkeley presentation?

Moses Pacheco said, “I felt like my MSRE had come full circle. The trip made me realize my hard work was worth every hour I put into completing my research project.”

Bridget Agnew expressed, “I felt confident and ready for other challenges.” 

What advice would you give to upcoming scholars as they prepare for Berkeley?

Daniel Sotelo advised, “Practice your presentation and make sure you really understand what you’re presenting. Most of all, have fun. You’re the expert, so make sure you act the part.”

Maggie Gossard encourages, “Take care in choosing your research topic because you will be living and breathing it for the entire summer. Try to pick something that excites and challenges you.”

What positive things did you learn about yourself after your experience at Berkeley?

Joseph Tran shared, “I learned that as long as I have determination and put in the time, I can accomplish amazing feats in academia.”

Bridget Agnew said, “I have learned to trust myself.”

One of the main objectives of the McNair Scholars Program is to provide students opportunities to engage in research and develop skills critical for academic success. Presenting at Berkley contributes to this goal; scholars grow both personally and professionally. Berkeley is often a transformative period for scholars because they can see the result of their hard work; the sharing of knowledge.  As we can see from the students’ responses, the scholars did indeed have a positive experience and grew from it.

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