undergrad research

Taking The Leap

When I was new to research, one of the most frustrating things my mentor would say was, "Choose whichever works."

I often tell my students that two scientists in a lab lead to three (or more) potential strategies on how to tackle a research question. In the beginning of your research experience, your mentor will tell you which approach to take.

At some point, she will expect you to weigh the options and choose a strategy to follow. You might not pick the right one the first time, but it’s important that you don’t let that possibility stop you from taking the leap.

—from the Researcher's bench

The mysterious ways of mentors

Most mentors do a solid job informing a new undergrad of the basic requirements of a research position. Typically, they cover the expected time commitment, lab safety procedures, lab dress code, and guidelines for writing a pre-proposal or end-of-semester report. When it comes to working at the bench, most mentors remember to share technical tricks with a new researcher, and offer guidance on getting organized, programing equipment, and finding research supplies.

But sometimes, because we have been in science for a long time or because we are distracted by our own research goals, we forget what it was like to be a new undergrad adjusting to a professional lab environment.

MicroInspiration: Do Undergrad Research

Quitting Time?

Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, your research experience doesn't work out. Maybe you don't like the lab culture, the project, don't have the time to dedicate to gain the skills you need, or you're simply overextended and need to cut something.

If you won’t continue with undergraduate research next term, but your advisor believes you plan to update them the next time you’re in lab. Yes, it will feel awkward but most advisors will be supportive of your decision. (And here's something: if they aren't, then you were definitely not in the right lab!)