Looking For An Undergraduate Research Position? A Few Tips To Help You

December 23, 2013

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Finding a research group where you can hopefully have the opportunity to publish in a scientific journal can be one of the most daunting tasks in college. General research exposure and scientific article publishing are invaluable experiences for prospective medical students. However, with ever-increasing class sizes in public universities, it can be difficult to find the right research mentor. Don’t let this deter you from participating in one of the most creative and exciting experiences of college. With these guidelines and some persistence, that research position can be yours.

Zero-in on your interests

Identifying your interests is the most crucial step but it can also be the trickiest. You need to be sure that you choose something you are passionate about and the best way to do this is to read various scientific articles or enrol in an introductory biomedical research course to get a better idea of the process as well as the professors. The Science and Health sections of the New York Times often have useful articles that will help you identify your area of interest.

Starting looking for potential mentors as early as possible

The right timing can be a significant part of landing a research position of your choice. The best time to start looking for a lab is the summer before the upcoming academic year. This is when professors are not lecturing so they are more relaxed and have more time on their hands. If things work out well, summer opportunities usually lead to full-year volunteer positions.

Know where to look

The easiest place to start is at the research department in your area of interest. On the departmental web page you will usually find the faculty information you need as well as the recent list of publications. Many schools also have an approved list of research faculty in the form of a student research program. Check out details across several institutes and shortlist those that suit you best.

Another good resource is your network of friends and colleagues. Ask if anybody knows of any lab openings for an undergraduate position. Inquire about the type of research performed and ask if you can visit the lab. Get information on the best time to go by and talk to the concerned professor.

Participate in a formal university program that links students with research faculty. Formal university summer programs or minor research programs are excellent ways to get involved.

Send in a written application expressing your passion for research

With professors receiving several requests from prospective students, what is important is to write a sincere, convincing letter that stands out from the rest. Find out details about the professor and his specific research so that you can relate your area of interest to that particular published research. Wear your heart on your sleeve when talking the professor’s area of work and how much you are interested in it. Your enthusiasm and interest in the professor’s work will earn you major brownie points and will tip the scales in your favour.   

Don’t give up too easily

Finding an undergraduate research position is not easy but it can be done. It takes patience and persistence. Keep trying at different facilities. Take classes. Make an appointment to meet the professor face to face. Being persistent is a desirable quality in a researcher and your endeavours won’t go unnoticed or unrewarded. If you explore all the resources available to you and show genuine commitment and passion for innovation, someone will eventually take notice.