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.

I Need a Reference Letter in Two Years. Should I Ask Now?

—from the PI's desk

We received a request for help from a former undergrad in the lab (edited here for brevity and to maintain anonymity):

Hi Undergrad in the Lab, I have a question for you. I recently finished a 4 month summer research project. I understand the importance of references and I was thinking of asking my supervisor for a reference for professional school but I'm planning on applying in 2-3 years. Should I be asking for a reference letter now while they still remember me or is that a bad idea?

The Quality of Your Resume Matters. Even for a Volunteer Position.

A few years ago, I interviewed a student who didn't put much effort into making his resume look like a professional document. As he was only a second-year student, I didn’t expect his resume to be packed with awards and accomplishments—after all I knew that an in-depth research experience would give him the opportunities to do just that. But I did expect a basic level of professionalism.

Don’t Want the Research Position? It’s All Good.

If you're offered a research position but it’s not the perfect one for you don’t feel guilty for turning it down.

An interviewer will be polite if you decline a research position—and most will actually be grateful that you did so. Although that might sound odd, a research mentor only wants to work with a student who will be a good fit for the available project, and that starts with the student having a strong interest in the opportunity.

And So It Begins

Whether this is your first semester on campus or your first semester in a new lab some awkward nervousness is to be expected. If you find yourself a little overwhelmed remember that almost everyone new is going through the same thing. Not sure that's true? Look to the PEEPS for a little bit of wisdom.

Those marshmallow bunnies have it all figured out.

Welcome Back to the Research Bench

The first few weeks of a new semester are often the most exciting. They are also, typically, the most expensive in both time and lab reagents.

Even if you only took a short break between the end of the last semester and the start of a new one, simply getting out of a lab routine can throw off your game.
Therefore, before you start an experiment this week, no matter how confident you are, take an extra few minutes to read over the entire protocol before you start.

Will You Need THE Recommendation Letter Next Spring?

If you’ll submit that all-important packet for the next step in your career next spring, you might not be thinking much about your recommendation letters this August. And, if that is indeed the case, pay close attention to this #ProTip: You should reconsider your strategy.

If you're premed, you have approximately 8 months until it's time to ask for letters from your professors (give or take a few weeks depending on your specific circumstances). But that doesn't mean that you have 7 1/2 months until you need to think about those letters.