Tips & Tricks

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 enough time in the lab 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.

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

If this or next week includes an official academic holiday at your institution, we hope you're able to spend 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 spend the academic break (or part of it) in the lab.

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.

To Accomplish Your Goals, Ask for Advice

This post stands for your personal, professional, and academic goals as well.

If you've been following us for a while, you know we often emphasize the importance of setting goals for you research experience. (If you started following us recently, welcome!)

Whatever your goals are for your research experience, you'll have a much easier time achieving them if your mentor knows about them, and if you ask what you need to do to achieve them.

Do You Know Why Your Research Matters?

What is ever better than getting an exciting research result? Understanding why it's important!

Learning the background information associated with your project is an essential step to understanding the full significance of your research project. Background information includes learning the basic information about your project, why it's important, and how it supports the overall research goals of the lab. The more background you understand, the more you'll be able to contribute to all parts of your project.

Two Reasons To Present Your Research Every Chance You Get!

There are many reasons you should put yourself though the special kind of stress that accompanies presenting your research. This post will cover two.

1) To build your resume or CV. Whether you apply for a fellowship, scholarship, or med/grad/prof school, the more presentations you have to list the better off you'll be. Most selection committees rank research presentations as a quality-rich activity.

Predicting the Future

Before starting an experiment, you should be able to predict what the results will be if you're successful, and what the results might be if you're not.

Although you won't be able to anticipate every possible outcome for every experiment, knowing the probable ones before you start will help you understand and correctly interpret the results you get.

Not only will this help you become a more independent researcher, but also it will help you make a more meaningful connection with your project.

Even If You Know What's in it, Label It!

When you're in a rush to wrap up your lab day, it may be temping to save a little time and not label a tube, bottle, or component--after all you know what it is. But that is a sure recipe for disaster.

Pages