Tips & Tricks

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.

Read the Troubleshooting Section Before You Need It

Every research kit contains a protocol manual with a troubleshooting section that explains the most common mistakes made with the kit at the research bench. If the kit procedure fails, the first thing most scientists do is turn to the troubleshooting section to determine if the reason could have been Operator Error.

Where is the What, Now?

Over the course of your undergrad research experience, you'll have opportunities to develop a strong sense of self-reliance. The more you choose to do so the more rewarding research experience you'll have, and the stronger your recommendation letters from your research professor will be.

Set Goals and Create Outlines Every Semester

Even if your research advisor doesn't require it, it's important to keep track of your research goals and project objectives. At the start of each semester, make a list of three things you want to learn or accomplish. After, create an outline of your undergrad research project. Include the main objectives & the techniques you’ll use.

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