Nancy Zhang, Professor of Statistics and Data Science, Vice Dean of Wharton Doctoral Programs

Why should you do research as an undergraduate? When I was an undergraduate, it was through my research experiences where I really learned critical, independent, and creative thinking.  Now, my experience as a teacher and mentor tells me that the unstructured environment of a research project really makes students grow in a way that simply taking courses do not.  In research, you have to learn how to ask the questions, and not just how to find the answers!

Research experiences are like internships and courses and any other experience in college:  They vary broadly, and the projects you work on can be very specific or quite open-ended. You may get exciting results, and you may not. But all research projects, by definition, are self-driven, and that is what sets apart students who engage in research. When I see a student who has done research, and engaged a project at a deep level, that really signals something very positive regardless of the actual outcomes.