Welcome to Undergrad in the Lab!

Undergraduate research can be incredibly rewarding, but where do you start and how do you succeed? Navigating this unfamiliar territory is not easy. Here you will find advice on how to find a research position, and how to get the most out of your experience.

Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.

— Albert Szent-Györgi (1893-1986) U. S. biochemist.

Make Lab Friends. Not Enemies

"When a supply is low, tell the person who needs to know."

Whenever we ask researchers to share their pet peeves with us, discovering that a regent or supply was empty and had not been reordered was near the top of the list--for everyone.

Many supplies take a few days or longer to arrive at the lab—they can’t be picked up locally in a pinch. A labmate, for example, can’t run out to Target to in the middle of the night to purchase ligase and complete their cloning reaction.

Your Spare Time is a Limited Resource: Use it Wisely

Managing your time in college is more complicated than setting a schedule. Among other things, it's also important to regularly ask yourself, "Am I involved in activities that are important to me, or do I participate in them because it's important to someone else?"

It's not uncommon to join a campus club or group as a favor to a friend or because you've read that membership will look good on your future applications. But, if you're not feeling it, it's better to move on.

15
Mar

Keep in Touch with Your Mentors. You Matter and We Care.

—from the Lab Manager's bench

As a mentor, I don’t stop caring about a former student’s success, well-being, or happiness because they are no longer part of my research group.

I want to know about the life events that they want to share with me—professional and personal--and celebrate when they achieve milestones in either category.

—from the Lab Manager's bench

Should I stay, or should I go?

For most researchers, working in the lab over a holiday break is somewhat different from working in the lab during the rest of the year. For example, if an experiment has flexibly, it can be started or stopped when it's convenient for the researcher instead of planned around seminars, classes, and campus parking issues.

In addition, some researchers take a vacation, adopt unconventional work hours, or hide in their office to work on a manuscript and only visit the lab to search for inspiration, a snack, or a temporary distraction.

10
Dec

Is an Independent Project Required for Co-authorship?

—from the Lab Manager's bench and the PI's desk

The inquires we receive about earning a co-authorship from undergrads in the lab typically consist of a summary of their project and a request to evaluate if it's "independent enough."

In many cases, the undergraduate is wondering if they have produced enough independent work to write a thesis (most have by our account), but others wish to know if they will be included as co-author on a journal article or elsewhere.

15
Nov

Growing Pains and Stepping Stones

—from the Lab Manager's bench

After you reach certain benchmarks in the lab, your research supervisor will transition from the role of supervisor to that of a research mentor.

Accompanying this change in roles will be the growing responsibility to do tasks formerly completed by your research supervisor. This will be unsettling at first--especially when you quickly realize that your success is now in your hands. Long ago, one of my undergrads described this path to self-reliance as "Growing Pains" and it immediately became part of our lab’s lingo.

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