Tips & Tricks

Choosing a Lab: Don't Let FOMO Hang You Up

If you find yourself in the enviable position of getting to choose between two research positions, don’t let the fear of missing out prevent you from making a decision.The best strategy is to start by considering each position individually without comparing them to each other.

Undergrad Inquiry: What does "Invest In Your Project?" Mean

After yesterday's post, Tips on Being a Good Labmate, ( we received three inquiries asking what it means to invest in a research project.

One undergrad asked if it meant to design a project or come up with their own research question. Another asked if it meant starting a crowd funding campaign to pay for supplies. Although these will certainly show dedication, and be great if you do them, most undergrads will demonstrate their investment in other ways.

Tips on Being a Good Labmate

In the lab, regardless of who your mentor is, you'll work with others as part of a team. If you’re lucky, your mentor will spend a few minutes explaining lab rules, policies, and essential aspects of lab culture. Even so, you’ll most likely be challenged with learning most of it as you go.

How well you get along will your labmates will have a direct impact on how much help you receive from others, your letters of recommendation, and how much you enjoy your time in the lab.

Student Doctor Network for Pre-meds

Hey Pre-med do know Student Doctor Network, right? (

If you're not already, get in the habit of visiting the website regularly. It's a great resource with articles and forums that will help you stay on track, learn success strategies, and learn from others about their mistakes so you can avoid making the same ones.

Grad School Bound? Undergrad Research Experience Matters!

Thinking that graduate school might be in your future? Admissions Committees often use an undergrad's success in a research program as a measure of potential future success. Do research, and start it as early in your undergrad career as possible. And do your best to get at least one full-time summer research experience in before you graduate. (Two is better, three or four is epic!) With research, the more experience you get, the more success you tend to achieve—personally, professionally, and academically.

Do You Blog?

This fall, we plan to write a blog post about...well, undergrad blogs. We plan to include a variety of information on why they are important, and how they can help you enhance both your communication skills, and your letters of recommendations.

Your Cell Phone is a Research Tool: Tip #1

Smart phones, when used appropriately, can give you a distinct advantage in the lab.

For example, rather than standing with the freezer door open trying to memorize which enzymes your lab has, use your phone to take a photo. Likewise, take a photo instead of jotting down the catalog number of each research component you need.

Then, head back to your desk where you can plan your experiment without needing to return to the freezer multiple times to double-check, or search for that piece of paper that you just had a second ago.

Poster Design: It Always Takes Longer

The first 30 minutes of designing a poster is the most fun. After that, it’s boredom, too many lattes, and a frenzied rush to finish it up by the deadline. If you’re designing your first poster, plan at least 30 hours from start to finish—it always takes longer than it seems like it should. For tips on creating any poster, check out:

Even Water Needs a Label

Establishing good habits at the bench ensures that you don't have to remember all the little details and can focus on the big picture of your experiment. So, label everything during an experiment. Even if it's just a tube of water, and even if you'll only need it for a few minutes.

The Elusive Academic/Life Balance

It is only through the conscious practice of time-management, and prioritizing the activities that are important to you, that you will achieve a solid academic/life balance.

Take time at the end of each semester to ask yourself, "What worked for me, and what didn't?" Then, to help keep your priorities in check without becoming overextended, cut low-value activities, only continue with ones that make you happy, and make finding time for yourself a priority.