Our first mentor spotlight features Professor Kristen Looney, who is an assistant professor of Asian Studies in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.
How did you become involved in research?
I wrote research papers in college, but my first experience doing original research in the “field” was after I graduated. I was awarded a Fulbright recent graduate grant to conduct research on rural-to-urban labor migration in China. I volunteered at an illegal migrant school in Beijing, where I taught English and interviewed teachers, students, and the students’ families about their migration experiences. I also conducted a survey with a masters student at Beijing University to understand the students’ level of satisfaction with their education.
Why do you think that undergraduate research is valuable, both for the student conducting the research and to the institution as a whole?
Undergraduate research gives students an opportunity to become independent thinkers. The lack of structure (at least for some projects) forces students to take responsibility for their own learning and discovery process. It also humbles students by letting them experience the difficulties of doing original research. University professors can also learn a lot from undergraduate research.
What is your favorite part about the research process?
My favorite parts of the research process are discovering new sources of data and those moments when you realize that data and theory are either really complementing or contradicting each other. It is during those times that you know you’re making progress.
What is the most challenging part of the research process?
The hardest parts of research are getting started, coming up with an interesting question, and translating your research goals into concrete, manageable tasks.
Describe your current research in one sentence.
My current research is about state-society relations and the politics of rural development in East Asia.
What is your advice for undergraduates who are interested in pursuing research at Georgetown?
Write a thesis!