Academic research is the backbone of the university. Though universities are increasingly acting like businesses with hyper-fixations on profit and the bottom line, research is still the most vital function of any academic institution.
Dr. Trena Paulus, who has recently been named by ETSU as the head of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, wants students to know research is not just for graduate and doctoral students.
Paulus has made it her mission to promote the visibility of undergraduate research and create new opportunities for students interested in conducting research of their own. However, this moment presents researchers with a unique set of challenges to be overcome.
Though studies into anything surrounding the pandemic have been in high demand, research under COVID-19 has proved to be incredibly difficult. Most archives have become more difficult to access, with many closing their doors over the duration of lockdown, and some material cannot be scanned for various reasons.
Research conducted in labs requires several new precautions. Data collection requiring face-to-face interaction has been dramatically reduced. Digital archives and databases will be the primary outlet for research during the pandemic.
Understanding the coronavirus is not just within the realm of the hard sciences. Research can be conducted regarding how people’s lives have been affected by the virus, historians can look into historical analogues of our almost-unprecedented moment, and literature students can look into cultural depictions of illness and isolation.
Much can be learned from critically examining the moment we are in. It is important that we ask difficult questions of how we got here, what can be done to resolve our current crisis and where we can go in the future. There are several research opportunities waiting for students to dive into.
Though it is the responsibility of people with power to make the massive changes required to solve this crisis, we can at the very least attempt to make sense of the strange and often lonely world we find ourselves in now.