Gathering Information on Research Groups

Laboratory & Research Advice

Gathering Information on Research Groups


In the previous blog, I discussed picking a group to thrive. This is incredibly important, and I have had a rough time at Stanford finding myself in a strong department, yet not liking any group. How do you find out which one it is? Most of the information you need is not on websites - you will need to talk to people. Email the students, email the professor, and, if you can, try to visit in person. If you visit, you will be able to ask for a lab tour or a conversation over coffee through either a student, or a secretary, and neither will be angered or offended by your approach.


Prepare for these conversations. Read the papers from the group, understand them, and note the areas where their interests match your interests. This is the start of your conversation. even if you do not know what you want, the awareness of this fact is useful. Bring questions, and brainstorm some ideas of your own. Your own ideas give you leverage and attention in a conversation with busy professors. Professors like to discuss ideas, hearing new things, and being surprised. Once you have established a connection on ideas, you can ask about the group. Here are some questions you could ask:

  • What is it like to work in your group?
  • To a student: how much do you work together with others?
  • To a student: how do you interact with the professor?