When I entered NYU as a first year, I knew I wanted to pursue research and take advantage of all the research opportunities NYU has to offer! As a Politics and Spanish double major, I knew I would not be working in a lab. But I did not quite know how research outside of the sciences is done. So how would I conduct research if I did not major in Biology or Chemistry?
Three years later, I successfully defended my senior honors thesis (about 90 pages!) to a committee of Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures faculty members. The honors thesis is an extended research paper on a topic of a student’s choice that’s directed by a faculty adviser. As a religious person and a cinephile with a love for Mexican culture, I focused my thesis on the representation of religion in Mexican cinema from the silent years to the present.
As a research university, NYU strives to include undergraduates in the production of knowledge. In fact, NYU is one of the only US institutions that allows first-year-level research. So first-year students have the opportunity to get involved with professional academics immediately. At NYU, research extends beyond the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, so students in all areas can pursue research!
A major perk of NYU being a research university is the funding support! NYU offers a variety of grants and scholarships toward student research. I received the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Fund Grant twice. With it, I traveled to Mexico City to conduct archival research. Then in summer 2022, I participated in the Research+ program. It is a cocurricular program for a select group of students in all disciplines who wish to strengthen their understanding of research both within and beyond traditional settings. What’s more, it offers free housing!
Whether you study the humanities and hope to pursue research on modernist literature or social sciences and hope to discover what drives human behavior, NYU has myriad opportunities for you. After all, research is not just for STEM majors!
Research in the Humanities
The ability to analyze and research aspects of human society and culture is the beauty of studying the humanities. Whether you study English, history, cinema studies, philosophy, or something else entirely, conducting research in the humanities is possible! Rather than researching in a lab, research in the humanities entails studying a certain cultural object, such as a piece of literature, film, or art, and positing an original argument.
Evie Bair, a senior double-majoring in Art History and Spanish and Portuguese, recently completed a senior honors thesis on Diego Velázquez’s “Las Meninas.” “I love school, learning, and NYU, so I wanted to go out with a bang. I finished my first semester-long research paper and wanted to continue to work in that manner and build those research skills. It’s a bit of masochistic pleasure that I have yet to unpack,” she says. Her thesis argues that “Las Meninas,” the Prado Museum, and the Spanish artistic heritage are not simply cultural contributions or tourist attractions. Instead, they are critical components in understanding the formulation and manipulation of a Spanish national identity.
Evie completed her senior honors thesis with the help of the Spanish department, specifically through the advisement of Professor Jordana Mendelson, who specializes in early 20th-century visual culture in Spain. “I had to beg a few unwilling professors in another department before I finally made contact with mine in the Spanish department,” Evie says. “My adviser was absolutely the best part of this process. I kind of feel the benefits of research in all aspects of my life. It’s an incredibly rewarding and self-fulfilling journey.”
Research in the Social Sciences
Conducting experiments is often a part of research in the social sciences. But these experiments do not involve test tubes in a laboratory. Instead, they take a variety of forms. For example, research in the social sciences can manifest in the collection and analysis of data through computer programming, more commonly known as coding.
In the Wilf Family Department of Politics, students can take Introduction to Research Methods for Politics. This class introduces students to quantitative social science, with a focus on its political applications. The statistical and computing material is very helpful for those like Austin Li, a senior majoring in International Relations, who undertake independent research. Austin, who recently finished conducting an honors thesis on the effects of US financial sanctions on voting behavior in Venezuela, believes his departmental classes sparked his initial interest in the field.
After graduation, Austin will pursue a master’s in International Relations at Johns Hopkins University. “I believe working on this thesis gave me a lot of the strong research and data analysis skills I plan to carry over to my master’s program,” says Austin. “I can now read and understand most of the methodology/research design sections of academic papers in the social sciences. Whereas, previously, I read everything else besides the scientific section and did not truly understand how the researchers produced their findings.”
Research in STEM
Although research at NYU doesn’t have to take the form of traditional laboratory research, it definitely can! At NYU, there are various research labs undergraduate students can join. For example, students can study artificial intelligence at the Human & Machine Learning Lab or early childhood brain development at the Infant Studies of Language and Neurocognitive Development Lab.
For Cheryl Quainoo, a senior majoring in Global Public Health and Biology, working at a neuroscience lab at NYU Langone Health allowed her to develop laboratory techniques, analyze research findings, and gain scientific knowledge. “While I am studying public health and biology, I was first exposed to the neuroscience field when I joined a virtual neuroscience journal during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. After this experience, I sought out opportunities to get involved in neuroscience research,” she says. “I plan on taking a gap year after graduation to work a full-time clinical research job before applying for medical school. With research being an essential field for medical advances, I plan to continue to participate in scientific research alongside school for as long as possible.”
Labs provide students with various opportunities to learn and experiment, which not only looks great on a résumé but also fosters the intellectual development of students at any academic level. Research labs can give students the opportunity to explore their passions and experiment in more ways than one.
For those wishing to engage in research, there are ample resources at NYU. Through financial grants and advisers, NYU ensures students get the support they need to pursue their research.
There is an infinite amount of possibilities for anyone and everyone who has a passion for just about anything. At NYU, if you have a project in mind, you can complete it!