Some of you may have heard that doing research is a great way to get experience and to build your resume. There is truth in those statements! I would definitely advise all students to conduct undergraduate research if you have the opportunity. The first step is where I usually get the question, “How do I get that opportunity?” Depending on your department and where you go to school, the methods can differ. Fortunately, there is an underlying theme for which to approach the situation.
Be Proactive With Academics
My advisor was thoughtful enough to share with me why he allowed me to join his research team sooner than I probably should have. Even as a first semester sophomore without having took the recommended classes yet, my resume showed that I had the potential to be successful. If you are invited to join honor societies, take that invitation. In my personal situation, being in an honors program may have been the key to the gate. My advisor was impressed to see that I was maintaining high grades while being active in other facets of the university.
If the whole honor society thing is not your gig, do not worry, there are other ways to show your professors that you are a fully capable student. One option is to be involved in an academic club or clubs. For me, that was the Psychology Club. Another option would be to participate in some sort of organization that serves the community. This could be the city community or the university community, it does not matter. If your grades are good and you can show that you are being active with your life, you have a much better chance of being accepted into research opportunities.
Find the Opportunities Available to You
While you are maintaining your grades and being active on campus, it is important to think about what you want to research and why. Find some question that you honestly care about answering. Research is a big commitment of time and energy. You are going to need to care about the subject.
There can be multiple ways to get into research once you have a research idea. Here at the University of Minnesota Duluth, we have a number of labs who hire students as paid research assistants. Do not forget to look at the student employment website to check if there are positions open in your research area of interest. In addition, we have the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) for students who have the yearning to write a competitive grant to research their own ideas. Wherever you are, do not hesitate to find what is available to you.
Talk to Your Professors
Once you know what is available to you as a student, you need to make a connection in order to get into a lab. Whether the first contact is an interview or an email, you are going to want to have discussions with the person you are going to be working with. Personally, I started my research experience with a professor because I was interested in the linking of personality and behavior research. The semester in the lab taught me a number of things about the research process, which I enjoyed greatly. Later, I returned to the same professor with my own research idea that was sparked from a class I was taking at the time.
A great way to find research opportunities on campus is to check what the faculty members in your department are studying. Your faculty members are highly trained, and will definitely know more about current research than you do.
So, there you have it! Maintain your grades, see what is available, and dive in to the research. If you get enough experience, you may find it will get easier and easier. It is never a bad thing to get that first time experience out of the way early, especially if you are going to graduate or professional school.
Of Possible Interest:
- The Importance of Undergraduate Research Positions & UROPs
- Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP)