Hear from student ambassador, Matt Shomo (Class of 2020), on how he got a job as a research assistant (RA) at Harris. 

Interested in doing research while at Harris? Not sure how to get started? Worried that there are no good options for first year students? Here are some tips for locking up that resumé-boosting, experience-enriching, career-enhancing research position before you even set foot in a classroom!

How did you find out about the BIP Lab?

The single most important thing I did before coming to Harris was communicate with current students and staff. After coming to Admitted Student Day last March, I made sure I reached out to a few of the people I had met while on campus. One of the second-year students encouraged me to check out the various research labs associated with Harris and the University of Chicago. One of my passions in life is education and how we can assure that every single child has access to a brighter future. That’s why the Behavioral Insights in Parenting Lab (BIP) caught my attention. I looked into the work they had done in the past and the projects they were gearing up to start in the near future and decided to pursue an RA position.

Are there RA positions available for first-year students?

YES!! The BIP Lab hired a number of first-year students for the various ongoing programs, and they actively seek out qualified incoming students to fill those positions. One of the best things about Harris is how everybody is eager to help each other in a variety of ways. Even if the BIP Lab isn’t for you, I would encourage everybody to research other opportunities and reach out to students or staff who might know more about those positions.

What do you do as an RA?

Most of my responsibilities this past fall were associated with recruitment and survey completion for the MPACT Program. RAs would travel to preschools in order to recruit parents to sign their child up for the program and in order to develop relationships with building administration. Once the program started, we were responsible for survey administration, making sure that parents were participating fully in the program. All of this work is vital to the validity of the study and we get to interact with the young children whose lives will hopefully be made better off by the work being done at the BIP Lab.

Is it challenging to balance work and school?

At times, yes, it can be challenging. However, the BIP Lab knows the demands of the programs here at Harris and is very accommodating of students’ busy lives. Research assistants have the ability to build their schedule around classes and can work as many shifts as they wish, usually topping out at around 15 hours per week. Research labs and professors on campus seek out Harris students for research and teaching assistant positions because they know the students here can handle the workload and manage their time accordingly. I would encourage anybody who is an incoming student to look into similar opportunities and see if there are options for you in your first year!