Tips & Tricks

Student Doctor Network for Pre-meds

Hey Pre-med undergrads...you do know Student Doctor Network, right? (http://www.studentdoctor.net)

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: http://www.undergradinthelab.com/node/48

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.

Navigating the Observe to Learn Position

If you're offered the opportunity join a lab as an observer, know that it's important to be genuinely enthusiastic and work hard starting on the first day.

Many labs offer an observe to learn position instead of putting undergrads on research projects right away. Although officially it's done to let the student determine if they would be happy in the lab, at the same time the other lab members are deciding if the student seems like a good fit.

Why Choose Research?

Undergrad research is more than benchwork or fieldwork. The skills you learn will help prepare you for any career path because an in-depth research experience will present numerous opportunities to develop personally, professionally, and academically.

New Beginnings

No matter what STEM experience you're part of, the start of a research project is as exciting as it is awkward--and sometimes nerve wracking. If you start feeling a little overwhelmed, read the whiteboard above a couple of times for an insider's perspective.

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