Think research is just for stodgy old men or lab technicians in white coats? Guess again. At Yale, students from all walks of life research a wide range of topics.

While some students come to New Haven knowing exactly what they want to do academically, other Yalies simply happen upon incredible research opportunities.

Andrew Nelson ’02, a mechanical engineering major from Iowa, took an introductory electrical engineering class as a freshman and has been interested in the subject ever since. This year, he decided he wanted to build a walking robot for the Society for Automotive Engineers’ worldwide competition in 2002.

For Nelson, who was struggling with the decision as to whether he should major in art or engineering, the hands-on part of engineering work is particularly satisfying.

“Too much science involves sitting down,” Nelson said. “I want to do hands-on construction. And now I’m working in a world-class sensors lab — but the project is actually all my own idea.”

While some students bring their own ideas to professors, other Elis’ research projects found their birth with professors.

“I had never really thought about research before I came to Yale. In fact if I had thought about it, it was probably with a negative image of research being boring,” Sangini Shah ’03 said of her nascent research projects in medicine, which she completes under the direction of a professor.

Shah became involved in research through the STARS (Science, Technology and Research) summer program, which offers room, board and funding to do research in a lab.

The STARS program that made Shah’s research a reality targets minorities and women.

“In my lab there is the principal investigator, the post-doc, who has the Ph.D, and the pediatric cardiology fellow who does both lab and clinical work — [and] we are all women!” Shah added.

But Yale research is not just science oriented.

“One of the criteria I used to select colleges was whether a student could major in archaeological studies,” David Fabricant ’04 said.

After taking a semester-long archaeology laboratory class last fall, Fabricant and another Bulldog, Christopher Ammon ’03, are joining the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey, a program under the direction of their professor.

Although each student has a different experience, perhaps it is Andrew Lin ’03 who summed up the perks of research best.

Lin, a physics major, started research in his freshman year. Now, he has a paid job to do research this summer in thin film crystal growth.

“Basically I want to build something cool — of course you won’t be able to see it with the naked eye, but it’s still pretty cool,” Lin said.

Lin displayed the enthusiasm all these students had for their projects.

“Doing research,” Lin said, “is the best job that I could possibly have for my life.”