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.

That Chore You Hate? Chances are Your Labmates Feel the Same Way.

Some research work isn't exciting. Racking pipette tips, autoclaving waste, making media, or washing dishes definitely fit in this category.

However, if you try to think of your research-related chores as "community service" that helps everyone in the lab, it might be its easier to find the motivation to get them done. Also, your willingness to help out and do a good job, even on the boring tasks, will be recognized as solid teamwork by your labmates. This matters to your success in the lab more than you can possibly imagine.

Heading to a Research Interview?

As tempting as can be to end your search and accept the first research position you're offered, only do so if you are genuinely interested in the project, topic, or techniques. Equally important is only accepting the position if you can uphold the required time commitment without compromising you academics (and that you WANT to).

Both your happiness and success in the lab are tied to a genuine interest in the work, and having enough time to devote to the project.

Career Path Honesty

When you apply to an undergrad research position, be honest about your career path. For most lab positions, it won't matter if you are premed, pregrad, or headed for the job market after graduation, or undecided.

If your career path matters to the lab, and you aren't on the "preferred" track for a position, then you won't want to join the lab anyway. You want to join a lab that will help you meet your personal and professional goals.

Handling the F-word (Failure)

When you start a project in a research lab you’re bound to have a few hiccups at the research bench. Mistakes are an unavoidable part of learning something new or acquiring new skills. However, also keep in mind that how you react to failure will tell your labmates how easy you'll be to work with in the long run.

Your labmates will be much more willing to help you fix a problem or prevent one in the future if you stay positive. It's okay to be disappointed when something goes wrong --just develop a strategy to stay positive and be resilient.

28
Apr

Empty Bench Syndrome

— from the Researcher's bench

Here’s to all the undergrad research mentors who said goodbye to a great student this semester, and feel that little pang of sadness as they clear the bench for a new researcher who starts this summer.

Sometimes it's harder to say goodbye than it seems

Last week, an undergrad who spent three years in my lab finished her last experiment, and made the last update in her lab notebook. It was a bittersweet day.

23
Apr

How to Interview Your Interviewer

— from the PI’s desk

To make the most of your interview for an undergrad research position, you need to ask the right questions to determine if the project is right for you. That might sound easy (and obvious), but if you haven’t held a research position how do you know what questions will give you the most meaningful information?

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