Welcome to Undergrad in the Lab!

Undergraduate research can be incredibly rewarding, but where do you start and how do you succeed? Navigating this unfamiliar territory is not easy. Here you will find advice on how to find a research position, and how to get the most out of your experience.

Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.

— Albert Szent-Györgi (1893-1986) U. S. biochemist.

— from the Lab Manager's bench and PI's desk

For Students: how Getting In: The Insider’s Guide to Finding the Perfect Undergraduate Research Experience will make all the difference in your search and help you prepare for life as an Undergrad In The Lab

15
Nov

Growing Pains and Stepping Stones

—from the Lab Manager's bench

After you reach certain benchmarks in the lab, your research supervisor will transition from the role of supervisor to that of a research mentor.

Accompanying this change in roles will be the growing responsibility to do tasks formerly completed by your research supervisor. This will be unsettling at first--especially when you quickly realize that your success is now in your hands. Long ago, one of my undergrads described this path to self-reliance as "Growing Pains" and it immediately became part of our lab’s lingo.

Label Bottle Tops

At the start of a wetlab research experience, there is often more information to learn than is possible to remember. Even those who take great notes inevitably lose some details. One of the most common mistakes a new researcher makes is storing a chemical or reagent incorrectly.

Don't Guess and Go

In a lab, many reagents look similar either in color or formula and substituting one for another can cause substantial frustration for both you and your mentor. Back in the day, one of my student's experiment failed several times before I realized they were substituting EDTA for EGTA. That one letter made all the difference...

Whether you're new to the lab or in a hurry, double check your notes and the bottle label to make sure you have the correct one.

Using Equipment for the First Time? Ask Before Starting.

—from the Lab Manager's bench

Self-directed learning is a reasonable expectation for all lab students, and should become part of your core as you develop into an independent researcher. But if you’re an undergraduate researcher, before working with a piece of equipment that is new or unfamiliar to you, always first consult with an experienced labmate—even if they are not your official research supervisor.

Your Spare Time is a Limited Resource: Use it Wisely

Managing your time in college is more complicated than setting a schedule. Among other things, it's also important to regularly ask yourself, "Am I involved in activities that are important to me, or do I participate in them because it's important to someone else?"

It's not uncommon to join a campus club or group as a favor to a friend or because you've read that membership will look good on your future applications. But, if you're not feeling it, it's better to move on.

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