Today was the last day of my summer chemistry research program. I have spent all summer in a bioanalytical chemistry lab working with crazy mutant proteins. It has been great. The best news is that my advisor has hired me on full time for the next year! So I will get to continue the chemistry stuff (though we do biochem it’s more chem than bio in this lab, although it’s all medically relevant). Anyway, I wanted to post about this because people are often asking how to get into research. With my newfound summer experience, I have several ideas about how to make this task easier. I think there are qualities you can look for in a lab that will tell you how open they might be to letting new folks in. Especially non trads and undergrads! If anyone’s interested, speak up and I’ll post a few tips that I think might not have been mentioned before. I’m too tired to put together an unsolicited list right now, but I’ll be happy to proceed if there’s interest.
… an unsolicited list right now, but I’ll be happy to proceed if there’s interest.
I’m interested! For med-school prep, I decided to go the “second bachelor’s” route and am currently working on a biochem degree. I’d like to get involved in lab research and welcome your advice/tips for doing so.
I’d love to see the list - big thx in advance!
Ok, here are a few things I’d recommend doing. I just think if you are looking for a lab to volunteer in, or apply for a job in, that some labs are more open than others. If I had just approached different profs and asked to help them, I probably wouldn’t have picked the prof I got assigned to, and I wouldn’t have ended up getting hired.
1. Be open towards a lab that is not doing anything flashy. In fact, seek out these labs. Grad students gravitate towards the newer, cooler labs–it’s the less fashionable ones that are going to be shorter on staff. In my lab we have pretty old equipment, mostly just the standard stuff used in biochemistry. But the basic stuff can provide some good experience. Same thing goes for the professor. Young and charismatic = flocked by grad students and not in need of more assistants. Older researchers often do need the help with their projects. It might help to look for research projects that have been receiving funding for many years, rather than really new ones.
2. When looking at professors’ web pages, compare the number of projects to the size of the group working in the lab. I know my advisor has some projects on hold, because there aren’t enough people to do all the experiments, which is why she is hiring. (Ok, don’t go work for someone that no one can stand either, but just be looking for where there is need.)
3. In chemistry at least, be open minded about the area of research. It doesn’t need to make perfect sense at first. Yeah, you want to make sure you’re going to like what you’re doing, but most chemistry research doesn’t make sense until you’re actually doing it. I don’t know so much about biomedical research, but perhaps it’s applicable there too.
4. Do the usual job search stuff, like offering to volunteer, and keeping a close eye on the job postings at your university and on the bulletin boards of department offices.
Ok, that’s about it. I realize this isn’t the world’s most practical advice, it’s just a few things that have occurred to me since I started working here, but I think I would have been much less intimidated by the process of seeking out research experience before if I’d thought about approaching it in this way. Maybe other people have ideas they could add!