Stephanie Domzalski

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?
In my current research project, “Pluralism and the Great Depression: The Impact of Bank Suspensions, Mergers, Liquidations, and Reopenings from 1929-1939 on Mexican American Political Power,” I am examining whether there is a statistical relationship between bank failures during the Great Depression in Texas counties and the influx and outflow of immigrants from Mexico to the counties at the time. I plan to analyze my findings by examining literature on Mexican American living conditions and political situations during and after the Great Depression, with the hope of being able to identify how this period in economic history affected this group’s political development in America. My faculty mentor for this research project is Dr. Gary Richardson from UCI’s Department of Economics.
2. When and how did you first get involved in research?
I first began research during the fall quarter of my sophomore year, when I developed a UROP project on U.S. congressional committee staff out of the reading and research I was completing for Dr. Mark Petracca’s Political Science course on the U.S. Congress. Dr. Petracca was my faculty mentor for this research project.
3. How has research enhanced you education?
When I entered UCI as a freshman, I did not understand how scholars conducted research in the Social Sciences. Reading research papers for my courses in Economics, Political Science, and Sociology introduced me to the general procedure Social Sciences researchers follow, but not until attempting my own research project on congressional staff did I begin to grasp the complexity, uncertainty and detail behind such work. Conducting research as an undergraduate has certainly encouraged me to think critically about the assumptions I make and methodologies I select in my own work and in that of advanced scholars. Discovering and attempting to fix mistakes in my research has improved my attention to detail and more broadly has taught me that knowledge is truly never certain and, happily, never complete.
4. What has been you favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?
My favorite experience with research thus far was presenting my 2002-03 project at UCI’s Undergraduate Research Symposium. My project was far from perfect in its quantitative methods, and my results were not easily interpretable. To present my project, I therefore had to take a step back and reexamine the initial intent behind the project and the kind of information I had hoped to obtain from its results. By doing so, I was able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in my project, develop ideas for future related research, and make a successful presentation.
5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?
While I plan to go to law school, I am also interested in pursuing a master’s degree in public policy or a related field. Doing research helps prepare me to apply to graduate school. Being involved in research moreover encourages me to think independently and critically, both of which are skills that I’m sure will help me in the future.
6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?
I would like to recommend the following points:

* Take upper division courses in areas that interest you. Get to know the professors who teach these courses. Seek out courses that require you to write literature reviews or conduct independent research projects; by the end of the course, you will have the framework for an independent research project complete.

* Think in a cross-disciplinary manner. Is there a statistical way to study some interesting sociological, anthropological or political phenomenon? Can you supplement a quantitative study with qualitative analysis? How can you improve upon research that has been done in one field with the knowledge you have from your particular discipline?

* Start independent research as early as possible and expect your first project to be a learning experience. After one more year of coursework in Economics, I see flaws in the statistical methods I used in the research project I conducted last year. Nonetheless, I consider the project I completed last year a successful learning experience.

* Do present at the Undergraduate Research Symposium. It is a great way to practice speaking in front of small groups and to practice presenting your assumptions, hypotheses, and original approach to the topic you studied.

* Seek out opportunities to become a research assistant for a professor. These opportunities are more readily available in some subjects than in others, but if you are able to secure a research assistant position, the professor may be willing to let you use a portion of the data or results from the broader project for your own independent project.

Past Researchers of the Month

Dec. '03 Jana Remy
Nov. '03 Jacqueline Chattopadhyay
Oct. '03 Anshuman Chadha
Sep. '03 Ted K. Yanagihara
Aug. '03 Stephanie Domzalski
Jul. '03 Susan Milden
Jun. '03 Mai Nguyen
May '03 Chris Smith
Apr. '03 Erin Ramsey
Mar. '03 Michael Williams
Feb. '03 Emily Slusser
Jan. '03 Laleh Boroujerdi-Rad
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