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Research 101

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Story by Li Ting Chan, Staff Writer

With the start of a new academic year at Yale-NUS College, first year students may be wondering how they can get involved with research at Yale-NUS. From summer opportunities all the way to your final year projects, here are three ways to kickstart your research at Yale-NUS::


For one, students at Yale-NUS have to complete a capstone project prior to graduation. The start of the 2016/2017 Academic Year thus marks an exciting time for the graduating seniors. As members of the inaugural class embark on their capstone projects, some have already completed a fair bit of work.

Anthropology major Graham Link ’17 is one of them. Link’s capstone is on how the Mosuos (摩梭)—an ethnic minority group in China—view, reappropriate and readapt state discourse on suzhi (素质).  “It was my first real experience with anthropological fieldwork,” he said, emphasizing the scale of the project in comparison with previous fieldwork done in class. Link had originally conceived the project as a part of his study abroad program, where he was required to spend a month doing independent research.

Amidst linguistic difficulties, Link highlighted other challenges in human research, such as building rapport with the villagers. “Informants … are not just pools of knowledge … [they] are … collaborators [who] are … giving up time and effort to help in your research,” he said. On how he thought of his experience, Link said, “I don’t know if there has been enough time … to process how impactful it was, [but] it gave me a lot of confidence.” Having collected all his data, he will be focusing on bringing in more literature and theory for his paper in the year ahead.

Summer Research Programs

Capstone research is not the only type of research conducted at the College. Members from the Classes of 2018 and 2019 also had opportunities to engage in research at various laboratories over the summer. A few participated in the Summer Science Research Program (SSR) and Summer Social Science Research Program, which were both in their third iteration.

Wang Jiayun ’19, an SSR participant, spent her summer at the Centre for Quantum Technologies working on quantum computation under the supervision of Assistant Professor of Science (Physics) Ng Hui Khoon. “Because quantum computing is totally new for me, and it’s been quite a long time since I last did physics, [this research opportunity] is … a jumpstart into something new,” she said.

Wang expressed gratitude to her mentor Dr. Ng throughout the interview, whom she said was very nice and patient. “[The research] really offers me confidence and belief that I can do research as an undergraduate with a professor,” she added. She hopes to major in physical science and will thus be continuing her research throughout the semester.

Research Associates

Students can also conduct research with professors through the academic year, either through research-associate positions or through self-initiated projects. Clin Lai ’18 is a research associate for both Assistant Professor of Social Sciences (Psychology) Jean Liu and Assistant Professor of Social Sciences (Psychology) Chris Asplund, and has been working with them during the school year and over the summer. Her research with Dr. Liu, on organ donation in Singapore, investigates how the opt-out system affects Singaporeans’ views on the topic.

A psychology major, Lai is interested in how environmental factors change people’s perceptions, and is confident that the research has the potential to benefit many people. When asked her biggest takeaway, she said, “Cognitively, I understood that [research is hard]. But it’s another thing to experience the back and forth email with staff [from various departments] … it is actually quite amazing to experience just how much research involves.”

While research experiences can be fulfilling, Lai cautions that one should evaluate one’s commitments carefully prior to embarking on research. “It is highly irresponsible to over promise the professor [whom] you are working with and later on disappear,” she added.

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