Supporting students, mentors, and instructors engaged in research.

Justin Mackey

Alumni Spotlight | March 2018

KU major: Communication Studies, Class of 2004

Current occupation: Orthopedic Surgical Consultant   

Research mentor while at KU: Mary Banwart, Diana Carlin 



Describe the undergraduate research experience that you had while at KU:

A: I was always very interested in politics and some of my courses really piqued my interest in rhetoric and media coverage of politics. My research project started out as something for a class project—more of a proposal really. Over time I realized that I really did want to understand more about the topic and decided to start actually conducting my research. I had some great faculty members that helped me narrow my focus and point me in the right direction.


Q: What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research? 

A: Patience. On the surface, my research required a lot of patience because I had hours and hours of video to watch. Along with that, I learned that things just do not always go as planned. By being patient I was able to find some really important data that was not actually the focus of my study to begin with.


Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates who might be interested in doing research or creative scholarship?

A: I think undergraduate research is a great foundation for moving on to graduate school. I felt much more comfortable going through the thesis process after having completed my undergraduate research project. My advice would be to find something you are passionate about and spend time with it. It will definitely pay off for you with the lessons you learn through completing your research. 


Q: Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation?  How so?

A: Definitely. My current career path focuses on medical research but the premise is still the same. I read lots of medical journal articles and need to pick out pieces that are useful to me in speaking with my surgeon clients. Much like completing a literature review takes time in reading and understanding what is out there, in my career I have to read plenty of articles before I find one that really has the information I am looking for.


Q: Many undergraduate researchers are making decisions about what to do after they graduate from KU. Having been in those shoes, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? Do you have any advice?

A: I wish that I would have taken advantage of more career resources to get a better idea of all of the different types of jobs that I had no idea ever even existed. While I have loved my career path and very much enjoy what I do now, I learned quickly that there were so many career paths that I had never even heard of or considered.  

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The Research Experience Program has certified more than 2,000 students since 2005
KU is a member of the Council on Undergraduate Research
More than 1,200 students have received Undergraduate Research Awards since 1986
More than 150 mentors sponsored undergraduate projects through the Center for Undergraduate Research each year
KU's first valedictorian, Flora Richardson, conducted research as an undergraduate before graduating in 1873
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