My Guide to Finding Research Opportunities as an Undergrad
When I first came to Stanford, I had very little prior
research experience. If you’re in a similar situation and want to start getting
involved with research at your school, here are a couple ways to find great
to the professors that teach your classes. I've found that the best way to
approach your professors is by showing up to their office hours, a time that
they have already set aside to help students. Another option is to email them
explaining your interest in research. In my experience, professors are usually very
open to helping students find research opportunities and are very knowledgeable
of the different available positions in their academic department.
faculty members outside of your classes that share your research interests. It
is perfectly fine to get in touch with professors who don’t teach your classes. When I was in the process of finding a
research position, I went through the Stanford medical faculty website and found
faculty members that were conducting interesting research projects. I then
emailed each of these researchers asking to set up a meeting to talk about possibly
getting involved with their projects. It may seem intimidating to approach
faculty members that you don't even know, but it really is not as bad as it
seems. Even if these faculty members aren't able to offer you a position, they
can still point you in the direction of other researchers that are conducting
to upperclassmen. I would recommend speaking to upperclassmen that are
involved in the type of research you are interested in. Usually, they are some
of the first people to find out about research openings in the lab they work in
and they may also know of openings in the other labs in their building.
Moreover, upperclassmen have already gone through this process and may be able
to advise you on which professors to approach and ask about research
up to date with undergraduate research resources. At Stanford, there is a
pre-medical student newsletter that always lists numerous research
opportunities. If there are similar resources at your school, I would recommend
keeping up to date with them to find opportunities that you would not have
encountered otherwise through simply approaching professors or talking to
I also want to share two important lessons that I feel all
students looking for research opportunities should know:
is key. Chances are, you're not going to get accepted into the first lab
that you apply to. You might not get into the second, third, fourth, or tenth
lab either. There’s some luck involved in this process and you have to remember
not to get discouraged. I, myself, remember sending out quite a few emails and
meeting with numerous professors before I found a research position. Just keep
at it and all of your hard work will pay off in the end.
immediately turn down research positions that you don’t have a strong interest
in. If you have no prior research experience, sometimes it might be a good
idea to accept a research position just so that you can learn the basic lab
techniques that are used in research. Just because a project does not greatly
interest you does not mean that you cannot learn important skills from working
on that project. Once you have the basic techniques down, you will be more
competitive when applying for research positions and you can then be more
selective with the positions you accept. Everyone has to start somewhere and,
sometimes, you have to start small to get where you want to be in the future.
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