GreenWaveWill

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Hi, I just found this board and though I'd ask a question if you all don't mind. This might be helpful to other rising Freshmen also.

I'll be a frosh at Tulane and next year, and I was just wondering what kind of activities, etc. I should be starting this year to prepare for applying to MSTP programs in a couple of years. I know research is a must, but I've heard it is difficult for freshmen to find meaningful research positions, is this true? Any other ideas would be very helpful, thanks!
 

none

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Yes, it's true. Perhaps you should focus more on the clinical side of things at this point so that you'll have more time for research when you know enough to be useful to a lab.
 

Vader

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Well, you have to start somewhere. I began as a dishwasher/solution-maker and eventually got to the point where I was leading my own projects and ultimately got published. I'd recommend getting involved with a research area of interest as soon as possible. You should discuss your long term goals with your PI so that he/she knows how to set you up right.
 
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jot

i started freshman year - and was able to work on a project immediately because i volunteered my time. this may not be an option for those who have to work all the time, but it is a great way to avoid stuff like dishwashing and get some real experience with techniques. after a couple semesters i had something accomplished so it was a springboard for other opportunities. as vader said, you got to start somewhere.
-jot
 

brandonite

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I didn't do any research until my sophomore year, but I was lucky enough to find a PI in a small lab that actually let me do meaningful projects right away. If I were you, I would look for smaller labs, at least to start with. You can get more contact with the PI, you are more likely to be seen as a member of the team rather than as just a student to fetch coffee and wash dishes, and you get a lot of great experience.
 

wgu

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Jot is right, unless you have some MAJOR connections you'll have to volunteer your first year. If you're smooth, your first semester.

1) Spend A LOT of time researching science that interests you at your school.

2) Narrow down to 10+ PI's. If you mass email them, your chances are slim. But if you just show up at their lab and ask the PI or a grad student to explain the theory and methods behind their research

3) Show your interest, but this must be real and not fake interest. You have to look into something you truly like. I mean com'on, you're going to help them for free! Also show that you're smart, capable, proactive, resourceful, yadda yadda...

4) Demand for a mentorship from a grad or upperclassman.

5) Hopefully you'll get something you like. Now work you're butt off if you realize that this is a lab you really want to join.

6) Like others have said, talk w/ your prof. about your goals. Ask in advance when you'll be put on payroll.
 
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jot

though i agree with almost everything wgu said, i personally leaned toward being a bit more tactful with demands (though i'm sure that was implied), and asked when i thought the timing was right. but i guess that means knowing your pi well. individual diff. i guess.

and remember, whatever you do, don't half-a$$ anything. remember in the end they want letters from every one you've worked with. more than that, it takes quite a bit of time to do anything close to meaningful. i had a really hard time working in a wetlab due to the other stuff i was doing, it really stretched me close to my limit (As far as time goes). i found the computational bio lab (dry lab) was more suited to my working style/time available (yeah remote computation - research from the comfort of your dorm room). with everything - if you committ to do something, do it as well as you can. goodluck.
-jot
 
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GreenWaveWill

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Thanks for the replies everyone!

When doing research as an undergraduate, does this limit your other extra-curricular options? I had also planned on doing some volunteering at the hospital, student government, and playing on a few intramural teams. Would doing all of that be possible while taking a rigorous courseload, or should I think about dropping something? Thanks!
 

wgu

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</font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by GreenWaveWill:
<strong>Thanks for the replies everyone!

When doing research as an undergraduate, does this limit your other extra-curricular options? I had also planned on doing some volunteering at the hospital, student government, and playing on a few intramural teams. Would doing all of that be possible while taking a rigorous courseload, or should I think about dropping something? Thanks!</strong></font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">I think the short answer is yes... But you have to test your own limits, and it depends on how commited/effective you are. It'll be good to try them all out freshman year and not go deep into any, but try to narrow it down next semester/year for quality's sake. There are efficient people out there who could handle even more than that though- who knows, you could be one of them!

About #4: My opinion is if you cannot be mentored well, don't bother with that lab. It would just be a waste of time. Of course you should put that in a nice way, saying how it is your philosophy to work intently (and do so) while being trained as such. Again you should be honest. A professor once told me this about research: "Insincerity shines through like a beacon." If you are dead serious about your motivations and good intent, I don't think requiring (euphemism :D ) a good mentorship is such an unfair condition.
 

Bikini Princess

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</font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by GreenWaveWill:
<strong>Thanks for the replies everyone!

When doing research as an undergraduate, does this limit your other extra-curricular options? I had also planned on doing some volunteering at the hospital, student government, and playing on a few intramural teams. Would doing all of that be possible while taking a rigorous courseload, or should I think about dropping something? Thanks!</strong></font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">I like the suggestion about volunteering - this is what I did freshmen year. It gives you independence to follow people around, do small projects, etc. Also, you can gravitate towards whoever in lab seems the friendliest and the projects you are most interested in.

And it's a great way to see LOTS of aspects of research, rather than being pinned down to one particular technique. My freshmen year, a lot of the theory behind the research was way over my head, but it makes you learn fast.

I partly agree with brandonite about the small lab/PI possibility. However, don't be discouraged from joining a large, well-funded lab. There will be less scutwork for you in a larger lab, and plenty of post-docs or grad students who can take you under their wing..I think a combined LOR from a post-doc & a big PI may be comparable to an LOR from a small PI.

Also, larger labs can give you middle-name publication potential, wherease in smaller labs these are generally few and far between, at least for individuals who are only spending a summer with them. Good luck! :)
 

Bikini Princess

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oops! accidental repost.
 

Doctor&Geek

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If you're enamoured with a particular school, you might consider applying to their summer undergraduate research program, if offered. If you end up doing a great job and forming some good relationships [connections] with people at that particular institution, when application time rolls around, you have an "inside track". Consider this especially if you can't find an option that interests you at your own school.

Yours,

jason
 

wgu

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</font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by JPaikman:
<strong>If you're enamoured with a particular school, you might consider applying to their summer undergraduate research program, if offered. If you end up doing a great job and forming some good relationships [connections] with people at that particular institution, when application time rolls around, you have an "inside track". Consider this especially if you can't find an option that interests you at your own school.

Yours,

jason</strong></font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">This is very true. However it is difficult to get in say... a REU (official Undergrad summer research program paid by NSF) after your first year. It is more likely if you're an underrepresented minority. Either way, don't rely on that solely but keep it in mind for later summers. Feel free to apply, it is good experience and shows your interest early on.
 

exigente chica

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Greenwave,
I think that it's totally possible to be involved in school clubs and do research. I am in too many clubs, volunteer, do research, dance too mucg, and still take 20 hours a semester! It's all about how much you can handle, never take on too much.
The summer research programs are good for people just starting out. If you need more information about any of them, pm me:cool:

Good luck in school.
 
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