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This is my first post, so I apologize if I do something incorrectly. I am a first year pre-med (and have read far too much of the hilarious 'most ridiculous things pre-meds have said' board to not be a little scared to post) looking to get my foot in the door with research early, even if it's something as simple as inputing data into a computer. Gotta start somewhere! However, I have found it difficult to find an opportunity. I have not yet had professors I can approach regarding their research and try to get in on it. There are also lists at both hospitals in my city of MD's and the research project they are currently doing, with phone numbers. Is it rude to call and leave a short and sweet message, explaining that you're a pre-med student interested in research, and if there is any opportunity now or in the future, that I'd be greatful, etc etc. I suppose I'm asking what the courtesy is on this, of being a go-getter vs. intrusive and rude. Also what you would suggest to get into a research opportunity. Thank you!
 

Euxox

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You have several options:

1. Look up professors on your university's website and send cold emails. This is how I got my research position. Keep the message short and simple:
Hello Professor X,

My name is Y and I am a freshman at Z University. I was wondering if you currently have any positions available for undergraduate research assistants. I have read some of your papers about topic Q online at found them very interesting. I would love to join your lab if possible.

Sincerely,
Y
Don't attach a resume on the first email. They will reply back and ask for one if they want it.

And make sure to do your homework before you send the email. I remember one professor complaining that he always gets people asking for research positions even though he hasn't run a lab in two decades. Also make sure that you don't flood a department with dozens of emails at once. The faculty won't appreciate that.

I would advise against calling. People are willing to read unsolicited emails, but unsolicited phone calls are another thing altogether. They are a nuisance and are quite rude.

2. Talk to your faculty advisor. Even if your advisor doesn't have any research positions available, some of his or her colleagues might.

3. Talk to some of your upperclassmen friends. They may be able to talk to their PIs and get your resume in the door.
 
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OP
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Nov 29, 2013
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You have several options:
  1. Look up professors on your university's website and send cold emails. This is how I found my PI. Make sure to do your homework ahead of time though. I remember one professor complaining that he always gets people asking for research positions even though he hasn't run a lab in two decades. Also make sure that you don't flood a department with dozens of emails at once. The faculty won't appreciate that. I would advise against calling. People are willing to read unsolicited emails, but unsolicited phone calls are another thing altogether. They are a nuisance and are quite rude.
  2. Talk to your faculty advisor. Even if your advisor doesn't have any research positions available, some of his or her colleagues might.
  3. Talk to some of your upperclassmen friends. They may be able to talk to their PIs and get your resume in the door.
That's what I had assumed about calling, just manner-wise, but I wanted to clarify and make sure I wasn't just being over-sensitive about it. Thanks for the advice! I'll be sure to send out a couple emails.
 

Euxox

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That's what I had assumed about calling, just manner-wise, but I wanted to clarify and make sure I wasn't just being over-sensitive about it. Thanks for the advice! I'll be sure to send out a couple emails.
No problem! I edited my last post with a couple more tips, just in case you missed them.

Also, don't be discouraged if you email twenty professors and only hear back from one. It happens to a lot of students because professors can sometimes be too busy to respond to all incoming emails. It isn't anything personal.
 
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In the same boat as you were, just landed research however. Email professors. Read up on what they're researching. Find research you ACTUALLY have an interest in. It will make your life so much better, and both you and the lab will be happier in the long run.
 

DrEnderW

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In my experience (I've worked in 4 labs), it is relatively unlikely you'll land a spot your first year. Most freshman just don't have the basic science background to make any meaningful contribution.

The best thing I can recommend is to dive into a class that interests you and get to know a professor. Find a "mentor" and ask about their lab or if they know someone that has a lab opening. The connections I made via research drastically changed the course of my career so I urge you to keep at it. If nothing comes freshman year, don't take it as a knock against you and keep trying to find a spot.

GL
 

nemo123

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Make sure to explore your options though if you are looking for a lab. If you are looking to get something out of it, make sure that you like the lab environment. Go with your gut. Don't go with a lab because the PI just won the genius award aka MacArthur Fellowship or because the PI just won the nobel prize. To be honest, almost all of those PIs have very established labs, but are too busy doing administrative tasks to really care about the people in their labs let alone any undergrads. These PIs also tend to be huge (>20 people), and an undergrad will just get lost in the sea of grad students and post docs. One of my friends went with a famous PI and thought she was going to get something amazing out of her experience. She ended up quitting after a year because she complained that the PI never talked to her and no one in the lab really cared about her.

I think the best undergrad lab experiences come from smaller lab where an undergrad can actually get to carry some weight doing a project and interact with the PI on a daily/weekly basis. Some of these PIs also tend to be people who have just established their labs (i.e. just got hired by the university), and even though they will work you to the bone (because they need data for new grant proposals and papers), you will certainly interact with the PI quite often and learn a lot.
 

nemo123

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In my experience (I've worked in 4 labs), it is relatively unlikely you'll land a spot your first year. Most freshman just don't have the basic science background to make any meaningful contribution.

The best thing I can recommend is to dive into a class that interests you and get to know a professor. Find a "mentor" and ask about their lab or if they know someone that has a lab opening. The connections I made via research drastically changed the course of my career so I urge you to keep at it. If nothing comes freshman year, don't take it as a knock against you and keep trying to find a spot.

GL
Not necessarily true. I've done research since high school, and even though I had to email >100 professors to land a spot in a lab, I was able to learn a lot of the techniques quickly and generated a lot of data by the end of my first year there. I read PubMed papers all the time (mainly because my PI would give them to me and test me on them 2 days later-- those grilling sessions were so stressful), and eventually, I got my name on a paper because of all the contributions that I made (and experiments/ideas I proposed to the PI). I learned a lot from my first lab experience, and many of my interviewers have asked me why I'm pursuing an MD and not a PhD (or MD/PhD). I normally just give them the PC answer because some of my personal reasons might be controversial (i.e. having been exposed to some crazy lab politics) and I don't think a med school interview is the best place to talk about those things...
 

DrEnderW

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Not necessarily true. I've done research since high school, and even though I had to email >100 professors to land a spot in a lab, I was able to learn a lot of the techniques quickly and generated a lot of data by the end of my first year there. I read PubMed papers all the time (mainly because my PI would give them to me and test me on them 2 days later-- those grilling sessions were so stressful), and eventually, I got my name on a paper because of all the contributions that I made (and experiments/ideas I proposed to the PI). I learned a lot from my first lab experience, and many of my interviewers have asked me why I'm pursuing an MD and not a PhD (or MD/PhD). I normally just give them the PC answer because some of my personal reasons might be controversial (i.e. having been exposed to some crazy lab politics) and I don't think a med school interview is the best place to talk about those things...
I'm not really sure how that contradicts what I said.

I've mentored numerous high school and early undergrad students that have landed very impressive research positions. Many have had pubs before college. That doesn't mean it's common. The vast majority of students do NOT land positions as freshman. Also, most people that have high school positions (but not always) have inside connections.

I got the same answers during interviews, I know what you mean. Good luck.
 

nemo123

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I'm not really sure how that contradicts what I said.

I've mentored numerous high school and early undergrad students that have landed very impressive research positions. Many have had pubs before college. That doesn't mean it's common. The vast majority of students do NOT land positions as freshman. Also, most people that have high school positions (but not always) have inside connections.

I got the same answers during interviews, I know what you mean. Good luck.
Lol I got lost in writing that post that I forgot to get to the point. I think generally if you're enthusiastic and show the PI that you're really willing to learn, they will take you (even as a freshman). A lot of my friends got lab positions as freshman. Granted some of them did dish washing and made buffers, but many of them got to work with grad students/post docs right off the bat. I think the other thing is that most freshmen just don't look for lab positions during their first year because they're also juggling a new style of life and already have enough trouble adjusting to college life that they don't quite have the time nor the interest during their first year to scout out a lab.
 
OP
J
Nov 29, 2013
11
13
In my experience (I've worked in 4 labs), it is relatively unlikely you'll land a spot your first year. Most freshman just don't have the basic science background to make any meaningful contribution.

The best thing I can recommend is to dive into a class that interests you and get to know a professor. Find a "mentor" and ask about their lab or if they know someone that has a lab opening. The connections I made via research drastically changed the course of my career so I urge you to keep at it. If nothing comes freshman year, don't take it as a knock against you and keep trying to find a spot.

GL
Right. I know I don't have enough science background yet to contribute in that aspect, which is why I was aiming for even anything like, putting numbers into a spreadsheet. Just a way to get in and know people so that when I am of any use, they already know I exist and was willing to do the small things. I'll definitely have to take that approach next semester and keep trying to get something in research. Thankyou!
 
OP
J
Nov 29, 2013
11
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Make sure to explore your options though if you are looking for a lab. If you are looking to get something out of it, make sure that you like the lab environment. Go with your gut. Don't go with a lab because the PI just won the genius award aka MacArthur Fellowship or because the PI just won the nobel prize. To be honest, almost all of those PIs have very established labs, but are too busy doing administrative tasks to really care about the people in their labs let alone any undergrads. These PIs also tend to be huge (>20 people), and an undergrad will just get lost in the sea of grad students and post docs. One of my friends went with a famous PI and thought she was going to get something amazing out of her experience. She ended up quitting after a year because she complained that the PI never talked to her and no one in the lab really cared about her.

I think the best undergrad lab experiences come from smaller lab where an undergrad can actually get to carry some weight doing a project and interact with the PI on a daily/weekly basis. Some of these PIs also tend to be people who have just established their labs (i.e. just got hired by the university), and even though they will work you to the bone (because they need data for new grant proposals and papers), you will certainly interact with the PI quite often and learn a lot.
That makes sense. I can see how being in a smaller lab would be more beneficial; better one-on-one interaction with your PI, a positive experience that won't drive you away from future research, and if you ever ask them for a LoR, they'd be able to provide a better one than a generic LoR because you were one of 20 and hardly spoke.
 

DrEnderW

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Right. I know I don't have enough science background yet to contribute in that aspect, which is why I was aiming for even anything like, putting numbers into a spreadsheet. Just a way to get in and know people so that when I am of any use, they already know I exist and was willing to do the small things. I'll definitely have to take that approach next semester and keep trying to get something in research. Thankyou!
Absolutely, good luck. My first position was changing fish water in a zebrafish lab. PM me if you have any specific questions, I did a lot of undergrad research early on with an extremely limited scientific background.
 

nemo123

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That makes sense. I can see how being in a smaller lab would be more beneficial; better one-on-one interaction with your PI, a positive experience that won't drive you away from future research, and if you ever ask them for a LoR, they'd be able to provide a better one than a generic LoR because you were one of 20 and hardly spoke.
Yep. But finding a smaller lab is definitely really hard to do. Most labs tend to be >10 people, but if you browse faculty websites, you should be able to look up lab members in each PI's lab (how many lab members there are, what their position in the lab is, etc). A good hint as to whether you'll be able to get a lot of independence in the lab is if you search up PIs' names in PubMed and see if PIs put some of their techs' names on papers.
 

Euxox

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In my experience (I've worked in 4 labs), it is relatively unlikely you'll land a spot your first year. Most freshman just don't have the basic science background to make any meaningful contribution.
I've never heard of a student at my college (freshman or otherwise) who couldn't find position in a lab if they really wanted one.

Yep. But finding a smaller lab is definitely really hard to do. Most labs tend to be >10 people
I wouldn't say that. I've worked In three labs. Two of them had fewer than ten people.
 
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Aerus

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I started doing research my first year (no, I don't mean cleaning glassware; I mean actually helping the post-doc run the experiments for their project), so maybe I can offer some insight.

1) PI's tend to dislike premeds more often than not, as premeds have the reputation for being flaky, greedy, and typically uninterested in the actual research. When applying, simply say you're really interested in a career in science and that you want to see if you love research. You have plenty of time to "decide on becoming premed" later on when you need a Letter of Recommendation from the PI.

2) As a first year, you have one advantage over upper classmen: you can contribute more years to the lab. Mention that you're willing to spend the rest of your four years in that lab (if that's actually true; don't lie!). Mention what time commitment you can give (15-20 hours is a good amount) and how motivated you are.

3) If you read the lab's publications and can talk about it briefly about what you found interesting, it will increase the chances of getting a response back from the PI. Talk about why you want to do research and what kind of skills you can personally gain from it (AGAIN PLEASE TRY TO AVOID MENTIONING THAT YOU ARE PREMED IF POSSIBLE).

4) Keep your emails brief. PI's are very busy people. The trick is to say more with less.

I hope I helped. If you still have any questions, feel free to PM me!
 

Euxox

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1) PI's tend to dislike premeds more often than not, as premeds have the reputation for being flaky, greedy, and typically uninterested in the actual research. When applying, simply say you're really interested in a career in science and that you want to see if you love research. You have plenty of time to "decide on becoming premed" later on when you need a Letter of Recommendation from the PI.
I thought that too when I was a freshman, but the truth of the matter is that most professors won't care. I hid the fact that I was premed from my PI for three years, and it was terribly awkward when I had to ask my PI for a letter of recommendation six months back and told him that no, I'm not planning on doing a Master's (as he'd always assumed), I'm actually applying to med school. He was actually presently surprised. ("Oh it's been a while since we had a premed here. I have some friends down at the med school you know, if you want to shadow.") And I felt pretty guilty for having kept him in the dark for so long.

Besides, if there actually is a professor who judges people solely on their choice of undergraduate track or their career plans and not on their merit, would you really want to work in that person's lab? I wouldn't.
 
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This is highly dependent on how much research goes on at your college. My college has a Carnegie Foundation classification of Research University/Very High Research Activity and I've never heard of a student at my college (freshman or otherwise) being unable to find a position in a lab. I'm sure this is the case at other RU/VH colleges as well. And freshmen won't necessarily be relegated to dishwashing and preparing buffer either: I joined my lab as a freshman and I got to work on my own project within six months. Keep in mind though that this was an engineering lab in which I was the only undergrad and not a biology lab filled to the brim with premeds.


I wouldn't say that is the case. My lab has fewer than ten people, and every other lab in the department except for two or three also has fewer than ten people. I also ran two short stints through biology labs (which tend to be bigger because they are filled with premeds). One of them had fewer than ten people. The other lab was absolutely huge with dozens and dozens of grad students, but the professor was an amazing guy and made sure to talk to each undergrad for at least a half-hour a week. I got to know him really well and he ended up writing one of my letters of recommendation.

Usually labs run by junior professors or non-tenure-track professors will be smaller and labs run by full professors and endowed professors will be larger. The labs run by senior professors are bigger because they tend to have more funding coming in and the professors themselves have more clout. Both of these factors attract more grad students. But smaller labs are probably better for undergrads.
I hope this doesn't sound like a dumb question, but how do you know if they have a lab or not? For example, if they say on their faculty page that their research interest is etc, etc, is it safe to assume they have a lab?
 

Euxox

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I hope this doesn't sound like a dumb question, but how do you know if they have a lab or not? For example, if they say on their faculty page that their research interest is etc, etc, is it safe to assume they have a lab?
The biggest clue is their publication history. If you do a search on Google Scholar and someone hasn't published any papers in three to four years, it means that they aren't doing research at the moment. (Don't go by the list of papers on the faculty member's web page because those are often very out of date.) If it is obvious that you emailed a professor without even taking ten or fifteen minutes to skim through a couple of their papers, they will be less than impressed to say the least. I think that's what the professor I mentioned was complaining about.

Usually the entrance of the department building will have a board with list of all the lab rooms and the names of the PIs for each one, so that is another thing you could check. Also try to see if the professors in question have web pages for their labs and not just for themselves.
 

Aerus

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I thought that too when I was a freshman, but the truth of the matter is that most professors won't care. I hid the fact that I was premed from my PI for three years, and it was terribly awkward when I had to ask my PI for a letter of recommendation six months back and told him that no, I'm not planning on doing a Master's (as he'd always assumed), I'm actually applying to med school. He was actually presently surprised. ("Oh it's been a while since we had a premed here. I have some friends down at the med school you know, if you want to shadow.") And I felt pretty guilty for having kept him in the dark for so long.
Maybe it's the different environment? I go to a rather large public university with the over 50% of incoming freshmen being premed and the killer weeder classes and so forth. The science professors here tend to know that the majority of their class is premed. I've been to office hours and have had the professors tell all the students there how much they hate premeds.

Perhaps it's not as rampant as I made it out to be, but it's better to be safe and say "I'm interested in pursuing a career in the sciences, perhaps academia or healthcare." than to say "I'm premed and I need research experience." You'll seem more genuinely interested in research and will be overall a more appealing candidate.

Also, since the OP is a first year, they are not expected to be set on premed. They have time to decide and having a smooth transition into the decision of wishing to pursue medicine will be natural and not awkward at all.

Besides, if there actually is a professor who judges people solely on their choice of undergraduate track or their career plans and not on their merit, would you really want to work in that person's lab? I wouldn't.
I mean...I wouldn't hold it against the professor. A freshman premed with no research experience doesn't really seem like a candidate that's most likely to be incredibly passionate about what the lab is doing.
 
OP
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Maybe it's the different environment? I go to a rather large public university with the over 50% of incoming freshmen being premed and the killer weeder classes and so forth. The science professors here tend to know that the majority of their class is premed. I've been to office hours and have had the professors tell all the students there how much they hate premeds.

Perhaps it's not as rampant as I made it out to be, but it's better to be safe and say "I'm interested in pursuing a career in the sciences, perhaps academia or healthcare." than to say "I'm premed and I need research experience." You'll seem more genuinely interested in research and will be overall a more appealing candidate.

Also, since the OP is a first year, they are not expected to be set on premed. They have time to decide and having a smooth transition into the decision of wishing to pursue medicine will be natural and not awkward at all.



I mean...I wouldn't hold it against the professor. A freshman premed with no research experience doesn't really seem like a candidate that's most likely to be incredibly passionate about what the lab is doing.
This is beyond true. Every other freshman I speak to is "pre-med"(at my school we have no Premedical major, so pre-med is really just a course of action), and yet know nothing at all about the process. So I think mentioning something broader than 'pre-med', like healthcare of something, as a freshman would benefit me. In first year, that term is thrown around much too freely to be used and taken genuinely.

I wouldn't either. I'm definitely not qualified to do research yet. I'm just banking on the hope that they'll believe I'm qualified enough to wash dishes or something.
 

Dandine

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Not necessarily true. I've done research since high school, and even though I had to email >100 professors to land a spot in a lab, I was able to learn a lot of the techniques quickly and generated a lot of data by the end of my first year there. I read PubMed papers all the time (mainly because my PI would give them to me and test me on them 2 days later-- those grilling sessions were so stressful), and eventually, I got my name on a paper because of all the contributions that I made (and experiments/ideas I proposed to the PI). I learned a lot from my first lab experience, and many of my interviewers have asked me why I'm pursuing an MD and not a PhD (or MD/PhD). I normally just give them the PC answer because some of my personal reasons might be controversial (i.e. having been exposed to some crazy lab politics) and I don't think a med school interview is the best place to talk about those things...
Just to briefly get off-topic, what exactly do you look for when you read papers? I have been reading a lot on my own in my research but don't think I could have full-on conversations yet about them (although it would be great to get to that point!!!!). Are there any existing threads about this subject by any chance...?

For original poster, definitely look into something you're interested in. If you're not sure go about thinking of a question that you would want to answer and go from there. I ended up searching for a lab based on this question.

I didn't think that professors had any stigma against premeds, although I can understand that they would be looking for someone with some interest in their work rather than someone who was just doing it because "he/she was supposed to." Personally I went into my lab saying that I was still deciding on what I wanted to be and wanted to get more experience.
 

nemo123

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Just to briefly get off-topic, what exactly do you look for when you read papers? I have been reading a lot on my own in my research but don't think I could have full-on conversations yet about them (although it would be great to get to that point!!!!). Are there any existing threads about this subject by any chance...?
I generally like to get the intro down. I'll read the intro sometimes like 3 times to make sure I understand everything they're talking about (along with looking up random words from the intro in google). A good intro should touch upon the general background of what the field looks like, what specific question they're looking to address, and what they're going to do to answer their broad question. Once you have the intro down, it makes understanding the rest of the paper much, much easier (of course there will still be minor things that I won't understand). Beyond that, I think what's also important is having a mentor who will actually give you random tidbits of info, so you have some kind of foundation in the area of research you're studying. Then when you read, you can piece all of what your mentor says together and things start to click.
 

Dandine

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I generally like to get the intro down. I'll read the intro sometimes like 3 times to make sure I understand everything they're talking about (along with looking up random words from the intro in google). A good intro should touch upon the general background of what the field looks like, what specific question they're looking to address, and what they're going to do to answer their broad question. Once you have the intro down, it makes understanding the rest of the paper much, much easier (of course there will still be minor things that I won't understand). Beyond that, I think what's also important is having a mentor who will actually give you random tidbits of info, so you have some kind of foundation in the area of research you're studying. Then when you read, you can piece all of what your mentor says together and things start to click.
Ah, ok, thanks for your thoughts! I've been trying to find ways to understand something more thoroughly, so I've been experimenting with ways of reading a paper. Just out of curiosity, do you approach reading reviews (e.g. author writes about what is known about in a certain field thus far) in a similar way?

And I agree with what you said about having a good mentor!
 

nemo123

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Ah, ok, thanks for your thoughts! I've been trying to find ways to understand something more thoroughly, so I've been experimenting with ways of reading a paper. Just out of curiosity, do you approach reading reviews (e.g. author writes about what is known about in a certain field thus far) in a similar way?

And I agree with what you said about having a good mentor!
I think reviews are generally the best resource for when you're just starting out in the lab. They tend to be much more simplified and they tend to summarize everything that has happened in the research field up to that point. Normally, I just read through them from the beginning, and if I get to a paragraph I don't understand, I'll go back to the previous paragraph and read it again (since the paragraphs tend to build on one another and the points of a paragraph stem in part from the preceding one).
 

Aerus

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There are many valid reasons that a professor might turn down a candidate: poor grades, poor references, poor manners. But course of study should not be one of them. If a professor decides that someone is not a good fit for their lab only because they are premed, that is terribly prejudiced. I know plenty of premeds who are extremely passionate about their research and plenty of people who claim to want to go on to PhD programs but are lazy, unprepared, and unprofessional when it comes to working at their lab. There really isn't much of a correlation in my experience.
At a large public university, when you get literally hundreds of emails a day from premeds applying for your lab, you can afford to be selective. PI's want to find people who will be the most dedicated and passionate about doing research there. I'm not saying that all professors at my school actively try to avoid recruiting people who are premed, but cognitive biases DO exist.

Of course I am not advocating one to lie. Simply keep an open mind. As a freshman, you actually don't know 100% if you wish to pursue medicine, so it's okay to admit that to the PI. Keeping an open mind reduces any chance of activating any form of subliminal bias.
 

DrEnderW

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I think reviews are generally the best resource for when you're just starting out in the lab. They tend to be much more simplified and they tend to summarize everything that has happened in the research field up to that point.
This is really solid advice. I generally like to start with a review paper to give me a solid summary and highlight why the research area is important.

Obviously, the review will give you additional references you can delve into if interested. Just make sure you understand the PI's paper at a basic level.
 
OP
J
Nov 29, 2013
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Good advice. When you do interviews and such with these professors, you should be focusing on what you can give them and not on what they can give you. And I guess it follows that there is no need to be up front and say that you are premed. I would just advise against actively hiding the fact.
So I have a meeting with two different professors (in the same department) this week to talk about the possibilities of joining their lab, possibly next semester. Is it rude to show interest in two different ones, or is it fine since I'm just talking to them to talk about possibilities and not committing to anything yet?
I just feel like there's all these unwritten rules I need to learn and I don't want to do something wrong. Haha. Also, can you be in more than one lab? Or is that too much?
 
OP
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That's entirely fine.


In my junior year, there were two stretches of a few months when I was working in two labs at once. This is highly uncommon though, and I definitely would not recommend it to a freshman who is going into her first research experience. My best advice for freshman year is to layer on new ECs slowly and cautiously so that you don't end up overloading yourself. Also, it is better to do very well in one thing well than to do a mediocre job in two things. So just stick with one lab.
That's a good point. While I'm a lot more confident in my abilities after this first semester, I'm still learning what I can handle. Thanks so much for the advice!
 

Spica

5+ Year Member
Oct 18, 2012
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Status
Medical Student
This is my first post, so I apologize if I do something incorrectly. I am a first year pre-med (and have read far too much of the hilarious 'most ridiculous things pre-meds have said' board to not be a little scared to post) looking to get my foot in the door with research early, even if it's something as simple as inputing data into a computer. Gotta start somewhere! However, I have found it difficult to find an opportunity. I have not yet had professors I can approach regarding their research and try to get in on it. There are also lists at both hospitals in my city of MD's and the research project they are currently doing, with phone numbers. Is it rude to call and leave a short and sweet message, explaining that you're a pre-med student interested in research, and if there is any opportunity now or in the future, that I'd be greatful, etc etc. I suppose I'm asking what the courtesy is on this, of being a go-getter vs. intrusive and rude. Also what you would suggest to get into a research opportunity. Thank you!
A lot of great advice has been given here, but here's my 2 cents: some departments (at least at my school) actually post on the department website when they are in need of research assistants. A lot of people in my lab have started as freshmen, so it is not necessarily a problem. Additionally, my school has multiple research fairs throughout the year where you can see which professors are available and ask them what they're looking for. You should inquire whether your university does anything similar. At any rate, be persistent and you will definitely find something. Good luck!