As a student looking to get ahead in college, you will appreciate these ways to find undergraduate research opportunities.
Volunteering in a research lab can be a great way to build professional relationships and skills as an undergraduate. In fact, research suggests that students who participate in undergraduate research are more likely to graduate on time and with a better GPA (Tennessee Board of Regents, 2022).
Why Participate in Research as an Undergrad?
Undergraduate research opportunities allow you to work with faculty and graduate students to develop a deeper understanding of the importance of scientific research. This builds your analytical and critical thinking skills for your future career. This also sets you up to be a thoughtful consumer of research as a professional.
Additionally, you can begin to create a professional network within your research lab. A good research lab experience can serve as a launch pad to a wider net of professional contacts. Many students have found their future mentor or boss through a recommendation of a lab member.
How Long Should I Volunteer In a Research Lab?
Unlike time limited internships, volunteering in a research lab is an experience that you can continue throughout your time in college. Committing at least one calendar year to a research lab is a great way to learn and grow within your field. Generally, students who stay with the same research lab for longer periods of time have more opportunities for independent projects and get stronger letters of recommendation.
How Do I Find Undergraduate Research Labs?
When looking for undergraduate research opportunities, you have three main resources to find labs that are looking for undergraduates.
Advising or Research Office
Your academic advisor may point you in the direction of available research opportunities. Some advisors are aware of opening in research labs while others can point you to what faculty to speak with. If your school has an office for undergraduate research, they may also be able to share available opportunities.
Older Students or Recent Graduates
Students who are ahead of you in your degree program or those who recently graduated can often give you an unbiased look at a lab. They can share how the research lab operates and which labs are looking for students. If possible, ask them to recommend you for open positions within their lab or have them help you practice for the lab interview.
Professors and Graduate Students
The best way to find out if a research lab is accepting undergraduate research assistants is to ask faculty or graduate students directly. Most professors and graduate students are happy to talk about their current research and can often point you in the right direction for openings.
If you don’t feel comfortable approaching your class professors, your university’s website is a great place to start. You can review information for all the faculty members in your department and send a short and professional email asking about research opportunities in their lab.
The Balkhi Foundation strives to help level the playing field through education for all majors and we hope our educational resources like this one help students succeed in their chosen major.