Tips & Tricks

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.

What to do with all of your old lab tape?

Just because you can't recycle something, doesn't mean you should throw it away. For example, make a tapeball with your old lab tape! Whether you've recently started benchwork, or are a year plus in, it's never too late to start a monument to your hard work and dedication. And if others in the lab are feeling creative, you can express yourselves by making tapeball people when the PI is at a seminar.

Go Big or Go Home

No matter the discipline, scholarly activity, or type of research you pursue, to make your research experience the most rewarding you’ll need to invest yourself in it. Use these 6 tips as part of your overall strategy.

Lab Philosophy #5: Do Everything Well

There are numerous chores that need to be done in a research lab, and it's tempting to rush through them just to get done.

Instead, adopt the philosophy that everything you do in the lab is important, and deserves careful attention to the correct procedure.

Independent Project Blues

Even if you've been working in the lab for a while, when you start a new project there will be unexpected glitches and hiccups--especially in the beginning.

When starting independent project it can be especially frustrating. For many undergrads (and new grad students), the beginning of an independent project is both a badge of honor, and a badge of shame.

Don’t Judge a Research Project by Its Organism

As you decide which research opportunities to apply to, avoid automatically dismissing a lab solely based on a model organism. This is important for two reasons:

1) Depending on the project, you may never even see or touch the actual organism—even if you’re in the lab for several years. This is because much research is done on pieces and parts—tissue samples, proteins, or isolated and purified DNA.

Realistic To-do Lists Help Avoid Burnout

One of the biggest mistakes scientists at all levels make is planning to do too much in too little time. We all believe things will go faster, be easier, and take less time to accomplish than they actually do. Setting research goals is important, but so is adjusting them when needed. NEVER let yourself feel that you failed for reevaluating what is reasonable to accomplish. It's simply part of EVERYONE'S research experience.

Getting the Most out of Your Time

What you do in the lab when you aren’t doing research matters. A lot.

To extract the most from your undergrad research experience, you'll need to make your time in the lab matter.