Student Notebook

Fortuitous Opportunities: Taking Advantage of Student Competitions

“Louis Pasteur once said, ‘Chance favors the prepared mind.’ Take advantage of fortuity by getting involved in a lot of activities.” – Albert Bandura

At the APS 16th Annual Convention, I learned the importance of fortuitous opportunities. For instance, I had no intention of becoming an APS Student Caucus Executive Board member, but, inspired by Bandura’s message, I took a risk and ran for the Graduate Advocate position. There was no guarantee that I would get it, but I had to try. I decided that this was my opportunity and that the worst thing that could happen was that I wouldn’t get any votes (students weren’t allowed to bring tomatoes to pelt the candidates, so the only thing that could potentially get bruised would be my ego). The good news, of course, is that I was elected, but I never would have realized this potential had I not taken advantage of this opportunity.

In graduate school, I’ve heard many students lament missed research opportunities or that their research is not “good enough.” It seems to me this lack of confidence gets in the way of our ability to take risks in our learning. Unfortunately, this sort of thinking is widespread among undergraduate and graduate students. Last year, no undergraduate students applied for the Student Research Grant. This is worth repeating: Zero undergraduates in the entire nation competed for the Student Research Grant. And only 13 graduate Student Affiliates competed for it.

Fortunately, by virtue of reading this article, you know that there are research opportunities available to you. Every Student Affiliate has the opportunity to apply for the Student Research Grant and the Student Research Competition. And you still have time to submit your latest research project or proposal for either of these competitions – the deadline is April 1, 2005.

Student Research Competition winners will have the honor of presenting their work in a symposium at the 17th Annual Convention. Student Research Grant winners will receive funding for their research project. The amount of funding has doubled from last year: Undergraduate winners will each receive $300 and graduate winners will each receive $500. Each of these competitions looks great on a vita because they demonstrate a clear commitment to your research endeavors.

To play devil’s advocate (instead of Graduate Advocate) for a moment, I suppose one could argue that because there’s no guarantee of “winning” the award, there’s no point in trying. It is true that just submitting an application does not guarantee that you will win an award. However, by not applying at all, you are guaranteed not to win.

To once again play Graduate Advocate, I argue that active participation in research provides you with a unique learning experience. Every student application will be submitted to peer review. There are currently 60 Student Affiliates around the country being trained to conduct a scholarly peer review. The APSSC Peer Review Team will provide written comments about the strengths and weaknesses of each application, and each student who submits an application will receive this feedback. Applicants are in the unique position of being able to learn from their peers (and future colleagues) about the merits of (and possible improvements to) their research. Therefore, every Student Affiliate who applies for these awards learns more about the review process in research – an invaluable experience.

So, here’s the take-home message: Partake in the scholarship of research by applying for the Student Research Grant or Student Research Competition. This is your fortuitous opportunity. Take advantage of it.

More information on the student competitions is available at

APS regularly opens certain online articles for discussion on our website. Effective February 2021, you must be a logged-in APS member to post comments. By posting a comment, you agree to our Community Guidelines and the display of your profile information, including your name and affiliation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations present in article comments are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of APS or the article’s author. For more information, please see our Community Guidelines.

Please login with your APS account to comment.