“Being a research assistant is an enriching opportunity.”


As college students, you want the courses and extracurricular activities you’re involved in to be both enjoyable and worthwhile. You want what you do to look good on an application, whether for a job or graduate school. How about something that can look good on both? Consider becoming a research assistant for a psychology professor.

As a research assistant in Dr. Jennifer Harris’s research lab, Johari Du Pont says she is learning the process of what she wants to be doing for the rest of her life—research. “We start with researching what information is available and studies that have already been conducted. Then, we research and conduct a study of our own. When that’s finished, we write up the results and get that published before we present the information.” Du Pont adds, “Even though I am committing the amount of time equivalent to a part-time job, it’s worth it.”

Du Pont also discussed what a research assistant does on a day-to-day basis, explaining, “we have lab meetings every Tuesday; we meet with clients in the Tacoma Public School district and after each session, we make note of all the environmental, social, and bio factors that contribute to that person; and we write reports based on our studies and findings.” Du Pont noted that she has a color-coded journal to keep herself on top of her schedule.

Her advice for those wanting to be a research assistant is to be on top of your schedule. Du Pont says, “making lab a priority is very important and it is a commitment. The skills and knowledge I am gaining are invaluable.”

The little things that are also involved include grant writing, proposal writing, getting funding, especially going to conferences to present. And having a genuine interest in the studies and wanting to gain skills is important rather than just wanting to gain points off of a checklist.

In closing, Du Pont described the environment in the lab as, “a sense of community and family. We’re all holding each other accountable as well as lifting each other up and sharing our knowledge. It’s a very healthy place to be.”

If you are interested in being a research assistant, pick a professor whose interests match your own. Find out if your professor is doing research and if there are any openings in her or his research lab.


Photo and post by Christie Keifer, Administrative Coordinator for SBHS at UW Tacoma.