Tips & Tricks

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.

Stuff Happens So Back Up Your Stuff

Last semester, I spoke with a graduate student who was almost done writing his thesis and then--you guessed it--his computer crapped out on him! 

Unfortunately, he didn’t have a backup. His reasoning? "I’ve never backed up, not even as an undergrad and I never had a problem before.”

Above all, avoid the wishful thinking that because you’ve never had a virus, been a victim of ransomware attack, never driven your car over your computer, or had an untrained puppy pee on it that it could never happen to you.

Got Stocks? Remind Your Mentor

If you're taking a break from your research experience, or won't be returning when the next semester begins, there are some specific tasks you'll need to do before saying goodbye to your labmates.

One task that is easy to overlook, however, is reminding your mentor about any living stocks you worked with during the semester.

Here We Are!

If you're in search of quick tips, awesome photos, or in-depth coverage of STEM research topics, we have a social media channel for you.

Finding a research position is hard. Getting the most out of the experience-- without sacrificing your GPA or social life-- can be challenging.

We're here to help.

We have two Instagram accounts, and of course we're on Twitter and facebook too.

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.

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!)

Holiday Week? Be a Good Labmate Before you Go-Go!

If you're lucky enough to have a short academic week to celebrate a holiday, we hope you spend a little of that time out of the lab doing a little bit of nothing.

But before you wrap up at the lab, make sure that you've washed your dishes (if part of your weekly responsibilities), and completed any chores that are regularly assigned to you. You might be planning a few days of Netflix, catching up on sleep, and seeing old friends, but many of your labmates will use the academic break to get more done in the lab.

Label Bottle Tops

At the start of a wetlab research experience, there is often more information to learn than is possible to remember. Even those who take great notes inevitably lose some details. One of the most common mistakes a new researcher makes is storing a chemical or reagent incorrectly.

Wearing Gloves?

You wear gloves at the bench for one of two reasons: Either to protect YOU from your experiment, or to protect your experiment from you. (Okay, sometimes it's both at the same time.) In any case, gloved hands should never touch your face, arms, skin, or cell phone.

You can wash and dry gloved hands (or use ethanol on them) to clean as needed. However, before you do, ask your research advisor for guidelines so you always make the safe choice. In some cases, it's better to discard the gloves and get a fresh pair.

Pages