• Kyle Comito

From RA to PI from behind the screen

Hello again! Kyle here. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. But I’d to give some updates from my perspective of the past year, and my experience and changing role within the GREAT Project.

After participating in the second cohort of the GREAT Project as a Research Assistant and completing my research into landslide susceptibilities, I had the opportunity to be the Peer Instructor for the third and final cohort of GREATs.

As an Aresty Peer Instructor, it was my job to facilitate research meetings and discussions amongst the Research Assistants, serve as a liaison between the RA’s and their faculty mentors, and participate in Aresty Programs and represent the center.

Obviously, this school year looked a bit different than years past. I met with the GREAT group virtually bi-weekly throughout the course of the year. In these meetings, the RA’s would share updates on their projects, we would go over important deadlines and protocols, and discuss topics about what it means to be delving into the world of research.

These conversations would center around some of the following questions, and more:

What ethical considerations need to be taken into account when conducting research? How can we effectively convey our research to a wide variety of audiences? What makes an effective research abstract? What visuals or graphics best depict our work? And how can we encapsulate this all on a poster that is visually appealing, informative, and representative of our hard work?

The challenges of doing this remotely were apparent, this year’s Research Assistants did not have to chance to visit Costa Rica because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we did get to meet in person before the pandemic, so the group was familiar with each other and the scope of the project. I admire the way the RA’s still gave their all to their respective research projects, and continued to participate wholeheartedly knowing that they would not be able to travel to the country or do field work.

From my perspective, it was a neat full-circle to be discussing methods of effective research with RA’s after having been in their shoes only the year prior. Through this program, not only was I able to learn about all of these topics myself, but I was also able to share this knowledge through facilitating conversations, providing advice, and even continuously receiving feedback myself. Not to mention, the knowledge I’ve gained about my specific project: identifying landslides, calculating landslide susceptibilities, and mapping this all on relevant software, cannot be replaced. Even within the other projects, such as the studies into gravitation and seismicity, I’ve learned so much about through tagging along on field work trips and discussing with my peers.

I am very grateful to have been given this opportunity to travel to a place foreign to me, participate in research that I initially knew nothing about, and then get to advise others who are going through a similar process. As I graduate from Rutgers this weekend, I will look back on my experience with the GREAT Project as one of the major highlights of my college career, and will remember it fondly.

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