Walking the Path of Discovery

Walking the Path of Discovery

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Earning a college degree has always been one of my life goals. In the past, my main motivation was obtaining the title. However, in high school I was provided with a few research opportunities that greatly changed my understanding of research. Consequently, my motivation for earning a college degree has also changed.

 

My research work with the department was one of the most significant research experiences I have had the opportunity to pursue. Essentially, this was my first glimpse into the real academic world. Mr. Curry most aptly summarized my experience by relating it to a first time swimming--people will keep you from drowning, but it is largely an individual effort to learn how to swim. I started the research completely unsure about what I would accomplish, what I would have to do, and if I was even capable of doing what was asked of me. I quickly learned that research is generally unstructured, allowing the researcher to pursue a multitude of paths in attempting to answer some question, and largely trial-and-error, because many attempted solution paths lead nowhere.

 

My research project was to study complex number dynamical systems. Since I had just completed my freshman year, I was not well enough educated to produce any groundbreaking results. Accordingly, I spent the summer reading various texts on the subject and learning how to code graphics programs that could demonstrate fundamental phenomena. My research culminated in a computer program that allowed the user to visualize the famous Mandelbrot Set and its corresponding Julia Sets.

 

From this experience, I began to understand how research is conducted. More importantly, I learned why research is fulfilling. Prior to this experience, I believed that research was a sequence of "Eureka's" resulting in advancements like differentiable calculus or General Relativity.

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After my research experience, I realize that the path to a discovery is at least as important as, and generally more important than, the discovery itself. Thus, the fulfillment of research is in walking the path of discovery, and sharing that path with others through papers and conferences.
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