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.

Tip #6 for Full-Time Summer Researchers: Expect Stronger Connections with Labmates

Spending more time in the lab during a summer experience brings opportunities to do more than move a project ahead faster or learn techniques too complicated for the regular term. More hours in the lab also means more in-depth conversations that go beyond the topics typically discussed with labmates and mentors during the semester.

Tip #5 for Full-Time Summer Researchers: Expect Hofstadter’s Law

Basically, this law states that, “it always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.” New and seasoned researchers alike find that this reflects the true realities of bench work (and writing, and coding, and library research and pretty much everything else that is research related).

Tip #4 for Full-Time Summer Researchers: Expect Elation

There is nothing better than getting a punishingly difficult technique to work, or coming up with the next research question after interpreting a result.

An in-depth summer research experience will give you the luxury of time to think about strategies and perhaps the time to test several. It might be so exciting that you’ll have difficulty sleeping some nights even when you’re soooo tired from working all day.

Tip #3 for Full-Time Summer Researchers: Expect Frustration

Being in the lab five days a week for several hours each day will certainly help you meet your research objectives faster than during the semester. However, at some point your project will likely hit a wall. You might need solve a technical error, be stuck trying to optimize a fickle procedure, or need to dig deeper into the scientific literature and reconsider your strategy.

Tip #2 for Full-Time Summer Researchers: Expect Greater Rewards

Spending your summer doing research full-time? Expect to gain greater rewards than a regular semester experience.

More time in the lab means more opportunities to take a greater role in planning and conducting experiments, collecting data, and analyzing results.

You might have the option of working on an independent project as the “student PI” with all the responsibilities and rewards that accompany the title.

Additional hours in the lab will also lead to more opportunities to learn, contribute, and become an integral member of the research team.

Tip #1 for Full-Time Summer Researchers: Expect Fatigue

If you’ve decided to make the most of your summer by participating in a full-time research experience, you’re about to embark on a new, challenging adventure, and it won’t include much time for lounging.

During the summer, you might be in the lab more hours in a single day than you spent in the lab in an entire week during the semester. Standing, working, taking notes, and thinking about research for several hours (and days) in a row can be a difficult adjustment.