Robert Elkins

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?
My interests are primarily in philosophy, literature, and the humanities. I had the pleasure of studying under many UCI faculty members from our excellent Philosophy Department. To mention a few: David Smith, Alan Nelson, Jerry Santas, Terry Parsons, Jeff Barrett, Andrew Cross, and Gary Watson.
2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

I first started doing research for my Writing 39B class during my sophomore year. We were instructed to pick a topic that was socially relevant. I researched Hernnstein and Murray’s The Bell Curve. I have to thank Kory Ching for his guidance and encouragement during that class. As for my analysis of Plato’s Republic, I had the opportunity, as an undergraduate, to take a graduate seminar under Professor Santas. We were to pick a passage that interested us, and I picked a passage using which I could analyze Plato’s meaning of the word "einai." To me, this was a particularly baffling passage. In using a form of "einai," Plato could have meant three things. This ambiguity is problematic among those studying philosophy. I attempted to find out if there was a single meaning behind the use of the word, and concluded that in fact, there was not.

3. How has research enhanced you education?

College should be a time when students learn how to think and solve problems for themselves, and not merely for setting up the possibility of future employment. In my opinion, only by doing research, and becoming involved with all of its aspects (investigation, analysis, synthesis), can someone really achieve the hands-on experience necessary to learn "how to think."

4. What has been you favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?

Unlike other majors, philosophy lacks the tantalizing tidbits of war-stories and moments of high drama. Rather, though, it is one discipline where everything is in question, ambiguous, and problematic. Nothing is absolutely for certain. So in an abstract way, at least, philosophy is the most perilous of endeavors. For this reason I love it. However, working under Professor Santas also proved to me that I could compete at a high level, at graduate-school caliber. Despite setbacks, like shared library time with the graduate students of the class, I not only learned to do my work early, but also realized that I could be successful in my graduate school endeavors.

5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

My future plans are to go to graduate school and earn a Masters or Doctorate in philosophy. I am also interested in teaching. If I do eventually return to school, my experience in research would certainly benefit my studies.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?

Research involves spending a lot of time in the library looking up various references, and then researching those references. This is not to say that it’s easy by any means—which, I assure you, it isn’t; it takes time. Eventually, you have to synthesize all the data you have accumulated and construct a thesis that can be supported with the information you have. And if you’ve done enough research, it’s not at all hard to form an opinion about the topic you are researching—it simply happens naturally through the course of learning about something.

Past Researchers of the Month

Dec. '98 Kirk Pak
Nov. '98 Priya Shah
Oct. '98 Daniel Aldana
Sep. '98 Robert Elkins
Aug. '98 Amber Bosin
Jul. '98 Joe Ma
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