5 Things I Learned

Nicole Forno '25

Welcome to our 5 Things I Learned blog series, where UNH students from all colleges and majors share the UNH experience that changed everything for them and what they learned from it. From studying abroad and summer internships, to research and leadership in student organizations, follow along to see what you can learn by stepping out of your comfort zone and saying "yes" to that new opportunity on our campus.

Nicole Forno, Undergraduate Researcher

Nicole Forno, Undergraduate Researcher

nicole forno '25, Applied Mathematics (Minor in Mechanical Engineering)


For the past year and a half, I’ve been working for both UNH and Rutgers University as an Undergraduate Research Assistant (URA) to design, test and analyze data on a model hydrothermal vent that benefits the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Here are five things I have learned along the way!

2023 UNH Undergraduate Research Conference

Me at the 2023 UNH Undergraduate Research Conference

1. Try new things

I’ve learned numerous new topics and skills as an Undergraduate Research Assistant (URA). Last April, I had the opportunity to present at the UNH Undergraduate Research Conference and will be presenting at the Ocean Sciences Meeting held in New Orleans this year. Though public speaking isn’t one of my strong suits, these experiences helped me develop the skill of public speaking. While on campus, I’ve also been able to get hands-on experience conducting tests and building prototypes in a machine shop! You never know what each experience will lead to unless you take the opportunity.

Chase Ocean Engineering Lab

Me above the Chase Ocean Engineering Lab tank assisting with system setup

2. It's okay to be wrong

One of the most beneficial parts of my research experience has been making mistakes. Before taking Fluid Dynamics, I learned how to do head loss calculations using MATLAB code to understand fluid behavior. This involved several meetings to review mistakes I made throughout the process, which helped me learn a lot about the topic. Once I took Fluid Dynamics, the mistakes I made during my prior research experience helped me better understand the topic in class and further my MATLAB coding proficiency. Making mistakes is an important step in learning.

Testing our variable frequency drive with a small pump

Testing our variable frequency drive with a small pump

3. Manage your time

Balancing schoolwork, meetings, extracurriculars and all the other activities that come along with being a college student is sometimes stressful. Every semester, I find myself pressured to reach many deadlines each week. To stay organized, I started using Microsoft Outlook Calendar to keep track of my classes, meetings and assignments. Since meetings for my URA position are virtual, having easy access to my schedule makes it simple to plan a meeting! Building time management skills early will lead to an easier time planning and working efficiently.

Dye test completed by one of my colleagues using the mini array

Dye test completed by one of my colleagues using the mini array

4. Always ask questions

Often as a URA, I find myself unsure of the topic I’m researching or conducting tests on. To make progress on my assigned task, I’ve learned to keep asking questions. When I sit in on meetings for subjects I don’t quite understand, I ask for clarification from other colleagues. A lot of the time, asking questions makes people think of things in a new way!

Full-sized array running outside of Chase Ocean Engineering Lab

Full-sized array running outside of Chase Ocean Engineering Lab

5. Flexibility is key

Working part-time as a full-time student is no joke. When it comes to managing several different tasks at once, I learned that being flexible is important. As a URA, there are days when I have many tasks due at the end of the day and days when I have little work to do. Prioritization of tasks, academic or not, is one of the best ways to stay organized.


This work was made entirely possible by the NOAA Office of Exploration (Grant # NA22OAR0110192) and the PIs (G. Xu, K. Bemis, A. Marburg, E. Weidner).


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Research Opportunities for Undergrads at UNH

Do you want to attend a school where you can get involved in research projects right away as an undergraduate? Do you want to take on projects that mean you'll journey on a boat on the Atlantic Oceanperform dance before a crowd or identify artifacts in Greece?  read more about research