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.

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?

01
Apr

The One Letter to Rule Them All

— from the PI’s desk

Why this letter matters so much

As an undergrad, one of the reasons you devoted so much time to a research experience was to earn an epic letter of recommendation--one that speaks to your strengths, resilience, character, self-reliance, cultural competencies, ability to solve problems, and contribute to a group effort.

This letter will be a comprehensive endorsement of your graduate, medical, or preprofessional school application complete with specific examples that influenced your PI's opinion. This one letter has the potential to outweigh all other letters from a professor whose class you attended, or from someone who oversaw a volunteer program you participated in for a semester.

25
Mar

Extra Responsibility = Praise for a Job Well Done

— from the Researcher's bench

One of the differences between instructional lab classes and research in a professional lab is how feedback is given.

In an instructional lab, you have quizzes, lab reports, an attendance policy, exams, and possibly out-of-class assignments—all attached to a point system outlined in the syllabus. For most instructional labs, you can calculate your grade and therefore know whether or not you’re excelling.

— from the PI’s desk

Whether you’re pre-med, pre-grad, pre-dental, pre-vet, or headed for the job market after graduation, you will need letters of recommendation. Be prepared to invest 1 hour during spring break to do a little prep work that will pay off in better letters.

Pages