My inspiration to become a scientist is based on the example of my mentor, Dr. Steve Davis. Before I met him, I thought that I lacked the knowledge and experience to conduct any sort of research project. However, Dr. Davis showed me that everyone, even undergraduates (even freshmen!), can make real contributions to science. My research experience with him changed my life to the extent that my career goal is to teach at an undergraduate institution where I can share the process of scientific discovery with my students.
When properly executed, I believe that teaching and research are inseparable. Real teaching extends past the presentation of information, because students do not need a teacher to help them memorize facts. Instead, a good teacher trains undergraduates to use critical thinking instead of rote memorization. A qualified mentor can facilitate the student’s transition from a consumer to a producer of knowledge through practice of the scientific method. In a similar way, one man in an ivory tower does not perform the best research; rather, it requires the collaboration and inspiration of many curious minds. What better place is there to find these curious minds than in a classroom full of fresh, excited undergraduates?
Thus, my vision for integrating research and education is that I will teach students by encouraging them to pose questions. Together, my students and I will engage the scientific method to explore these questions, and in the process they will learn far more than a factual answer.