Interested in Lab Research?
Are you a Neuroscience undergraduate student looking for a lab research opportunity? The Neuroscience department has been very successful placing undergraduate students within laboratories, and we currently have 79 undergraduate students actively engaged in laboratory research and technician positions.
Before applying to work in a research laboratory, you should really think about what you wish to achieve with this experience, as undergraduate research opportunities vary in their scope and range.
Kinds of Lab Research Opportunities
Most students start working as a lab technician in a lab, performing routine tasks such as running gels, washing glassware, and setting up PCR reactions. This type of position may be paid or may be performed in an unpaid intern capacity. Often, research labs have funding from outside grants to hire both work-study and non work-study students to work as technicians. Sometimes, however, the budget of a lab is tight, and you should consider whether or not you would be willing to volunteer if your lab of interest is short on funding.
You may also wish to work in a laboratory as a research technician. This type of experience is vastly different from a lab technician. As a research technician, you will be asked to perform research on a project of your own. Most often, this project is a facet of an on-going research effort in the lab, and you will work closely with a graduate student or post doc. You will be expected to perform experiments independently, hypothesize on data collection and manipulation, defend your conjectures, and you may even be asked to present your research at lab meetings or conferences. Because research technician positions are highly selective, most students begin working in a lab as a lab technician to gain experience and demonstrate proficiency, and then are asked to continue on as research technicians. Although it is unusual, some students do begin an undergraduate research project right away. Most often these students have been involved in an outside laboratory experience or have demonstrated themselves to be outstanding in laboratory work.
Labs will sometimes list lab technician jobs on the SFS (student financial services).
Pursuing a Lab Research Opportunity
- Take the initiative: look at the fields of research in which faculty members specialize. Find a professor whose research you find interesting and do a little reading. Review the faculty list for their research interests. Not all of them have active labs - you should check!
- If you find someone whose research appeals to you, you can send them an email introducing yourself and asking if they have any jobs in their lab for a student. Tell them why you are interested in their lab and let them know if you have skills that are relevant. If you are work-study, be sure to indicate that. Also, if you are planning to go to graduate school and do research, indicate that as well.
The UDR website offers additional good tips for finding a lab research opportunity.