We often get asked what it’s like to work in the Center for Advanced Hindsight. So, we thought we’d give you a peek into our daily lives with our new series called “Working With Advanced Hindsight.” To see more about the nature of our lab, check out the photos and content on our Facebook page.
To begin our series, let’s start with the youngest people in the lab: our wonderful undergraduate research assistants. The lab takes on a few undergraduate students as research assistants each semester, and their responsibilities cover a wide range — from doing background research for new studies to running the actual experiments. To better understand what working at CAH as a research assistant is like, we’ve asked five of our current research assistants a few questions.
Q. Why did you join the lab?
Katie: “I applied because the research was awesome. But I joined because at my interview it was made clear that if I put in the effort, I would really be part of the research experience and that I would be part of creating and carrying out ideas. Today I know that some of the words and graphics I came up with to study a brainstorming session at the age of 19 will be in an academic journal article one day. It’s an amazing way to start off freshman year.”
Tyler: “Before I learned about the study of behavioral economics, I had never realized that economics was applicable to things other than business. Suddenly, I was able to understand things from what beer people will order in a restaurant to how people derive happiness from work. I wanted to be more involved with and surrounded by these ideas.”
Q. What is it like to work at the lab?
Shannon: “You oftentimes hear academics talk about their research and publications as if they are the only ones working on a project. But at the CAH lab, I’ve learned the importance of collaboration and cooperation. We edit each other’s surveys, help each other’s experiments, and collectively work together as a team.”
Minn Htet: “I see myself as a generalist. The great thing about CAH is that it is truly interdisciplinary and the work we do here is connected to many different things across disciplines. From historians to neuroscientists, CAH is a crossroads of ideas.”
Michael: “Working at CAH brings an interesting dichotomy of intensive yet fun research to each day. It’s fun and frustrating. And I am not just saying that, sometimes everything is just frustration — that’s science.”
Q. What is challenging about being a RA at the lab?
Katie: “Creating a good experiment can be challenging. For instance you may want to make people “feel calm” in the lab. Not only does one have to consider how to create “calm”, the researcher also has to worry about how to measure it and how differently people react to stimuli intended to induce “calmness.”
Minn Htet: “Research is not just about developing a knowledge set, it’s about learning how to ask and answer questions. And answering questions is hard, isolating constructs and truly producing new knowledge is really tricky.”
Tyler: “I had never realized that there were so many variables that needed to be controlled for and that oftentimes an idea needs to be tested in a variety of different ways in order to fully assess whether it is the ‘explanatory variable’ that is causing a certain outcome.”
Q. What have you learnt?
Katie: “It sounds cheesy, but research doesn’t just mean sitting in a lab running numbers or counting cells. Research also requires creativity and innovation. Ideas are important. Also, as in any aspect of life, the ability to write well is necessary.”
Shannon: “Being a researcher can be immensely diverse– from running a study at a downtown restaurant, to working alone for hours on a tedious survey, to having animated discussions about what to write for a popular press article, I have discovered that there are a lot of different facets to this type of life, even as an RA.”