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Can I do research as a non-STEM major?

If you know anything about the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, you already know a lot about our Experiential Liberal Arts program and the four pillars – Study abroad, Service Learning, Co-op and Research. As a non-STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Math) major, the idea of research was a bit daunting and after talking to many of my peers, I realized that I wasn’t alone. In my final year, I decided to embark on a research project and this post details my motivations, my experience and my journey through out the process.  It’s for all non-STEM majors dabbling with the idea of research.

At the end of your time at Northeastern, all students are required to take a Capstone class. As an Economics and Finance combined major, I have to do two capstones. So, for one of my capstones, I was interested in making my final assignment at Northeastern an embodiment of my time here. I wanted to showcase the knowledge I had gained in my combined major, my minor in International affairs, specifically in the Asian region, study abroad in Hong Kong and my African (Nigerian) heritage. I am very interested in the idea of economic development and where the investments come from; so, to bridge all my interests into a single project, I decided to write my Capstone on the “Evolution of Chinese Outward Foreign Direct Investment and the Determinants of its Locations”. I wanted to know what motivates Chinese investment decisions as a lot of the investments are now in African countries, use econometric methods to understand the results and finally evaluate the effects on the recipient countries. It was a pretty ambitious project and to do it, I had the option of taking the traditional route with a capstone course in my final year or I could apply to have it count as an independent research project supported by a faculty mentor.

I decided to do the latter because I was also interested in graduating with an Honors in Economics and this research proposal if granted will let me do that. So, I began the process.

It involved finding a professor who either has an interest in my area of study or was willing and able to assist in my project; I needed to write a proposal stating my interest, motivations and timeline and I needed to reach out to the undergraduate evaluation team to allow me count an independent research project as a capstone. When all this was done and I set a timeline for evaluation the hard part was over and all that was left to do, was the research.

I began my research in Fall 2019. In the beginning, it was difficult trying to balance schoolwork, job/graduate school applications and research as well. However, because I had the luxury of choosing a topic I was particularly interested in, at some point it did not feel like a chore. I got the hang of it and am now at the end of October, I am at the tail end of the project – reviewing and writing.

This might all sound like a lot of work, but that’s simply because it was. Nevertheless, this project is one of the most rewarding things I have done during my time at Northeastern. Not only because of the results, but because the process has provided an avenue for me to step out of my comfort zone and do something that seemed incredibly difficult and succeed in it. So, for all of you considering a research project, I definitely recommend it – it makes for a good job interview story-  but be smarter than I was and do it before your final semester. Good luck!

This blog post was written by Deborah Madueke an Economics and Finance combined major with a minor in International Affairs.

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