graciegreen

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Aug 10, 2004
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Hey everyone-
I haven't found any threads for this, so I'm posting. I'm a brand new older post-bac pre-med. I want to try doing research, and I know I'm supposed to go to my professors (I'm doing an informal post-bac at a state university) and ask them to do research, but I found this amazing research project that I'd love to be a part of at a local hospital. I've been told that "no one will turn down free labor", and I would LOVE to volunteer on this research project (it has to do with a disease I've been personally impacted by), so my question is,
Should I just email the doctor in charge of the project stating my desire to work for her and asking if she needs volunteers? It's not like I have a bunch of research experience to bring to the table--none in fact. Should I tell her I'm pre-med? Is it like a job cover letter sort of thing? Or should I just send a quick query? If anyone has experience with this sort of cold call volunteering I'd love to hear it...
Thanks everyone--
 

imrep1972

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Jan 3, 2005
388
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Attending Physician
graciegreen said:
Hey everyone-
I haven't found any threads for this, so I'm posting. I'm a brand new older post-bac pre-med. I want to try doing research, and I know I'm supposed to go to my professors (I'm doing an informal post-bac at a state university) and ask them to do research, but I found this amazing research project that I'd love to be a part of at a local hospital. I've been told that "no one will turn down free labor", and I would LOVE to volunteer on this research project (it has to do with a disease I've been personally impacted by), so my question is,
Should I just email the doctor in charge of the project stating my desire to work for her and asking if she needs volunteers? It's not like I have a bunch of research experience to bring to the table--none in fact. Should I tell her I'm pre-med? Is it like a job cover letter sort of thing? Or should I just send a quick query? If anyone has experience with this sort of cold call volunteering I'd love to hear it...
Thanks everyone--
Without specifically knowing the person/lab you are talking about, this is my advice:

By all means, send an email, detailing why you would like to be involved in this research project. However, I would strongly recommend that you try to meet this doctor face to face. An email is nice, but it can be missed, it can be ignored, or it can be dismissed. A real life person standing in your office talking aobut how exciting your project is and why they want to be involved is hard to pass up.

I think generally, people will not pass up free labor, but a lot depends on the person themself. If he/she does not feel that they will have the time to be able to train you effectively, they may see you more as a problem in their lab than a solution, and so, decline. At the same time, if the doctor sees him/herself as a "helper" - he/she may be excited at the prospect of taking a non-trad student into the lab and "teaching" them.

For myself, I was referred to a lab by a classmate. I went to meet with the prof face to face, and was immediately (like the next day) given a position in his lab. It has worked out tremendously for me. I have learned more than I could have imagined, found that I do really enjoy lab work, and - significantly (although not in my original plan) - been given an amazing letter of recommendation from a professor who is on the AdCom at the med school I am working in.

Go for it! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
 

sidewalkman

15+ Year Member
Jun 11, 2004
520
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I've done the cold-call volunteering thing. Due to my work schedule, I haven't actually signed up, but the process I know very well.

In your Email (I used letters; more personal I say, but it doesn't matter), do not phrase it as you 'want to try research.' Show commitment. I mentioned I was 'looking for mentors in that area of study.' In your case, I'd open with a description of your personal experience, then say that experience inspired you to want to pursue the academic side of the field. Then close with what education you do have and that you want to pursue medical school in a few years. (In a few years to suggest that you'll be in the lab for a while.) The entire thing should take half a page or so. This approach got my foot in the door at a bunch of places.

Now, you may get rejected, perhaps rather gruffly (it happened to me). The lab may be full, they may not have gotten that grant, they may be teaching a lot this year, etc. Still, the odds of a PI wanting free labor is so high that you should only ask one or two profs at a time if you can work with them. If you don't hear back in a week or so, try another prof. I messed this up when I tried this. I had sent out 15 letters simultaneously, and wound up with 8 positive responses (and only 2 flat rejections) within 2 weeks. Embarassingly, I had to cancel many of the subsequent interview requests. So long as you don't do that, you should be OK.
 

bartenderpatel

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Aug 6, 2003
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graciegreen said:
Hey everyone-
I haven't found any threads for this, so I'm posting. I'm a brand new older post-bac pre-med. I want to try doing research, and I know I'm supposed to go to my professors (I'm doing an informal post-bac at a state university) and ask them to do research, but I found this amazing research project that I'd love to be a part of at a local hospital. I've been told that "no one will turn down free labor", and I would LOVE to volunteer on this research project (it has to do with a disease I've been personally impacted by), so my question is,
Should I just email the doctor in charge of the project stating my desire to work for her and asking if she needs volunteers? It's not like I have a bunch of research experience to bring to the table--none in fact. Should I tell her I'm pre-med? Is it like a job cover letter sort of thing? Or should I just send a quick query? If anyone has experience with this sort of cold call volunteering I'd love to hear it...
Thanks everyone--
Hey there,

I am exactly in the same situation as you. However what i did was that i had a project idea in mind, i had e-mailed tons of doctors and profs, with almot no response or all negative responses. Like you i am in a non trad. program research oriented. So i came across this doctor who was working on the same project i was interested in, and the way i put my e-mail was that i explained to him my interest in the topic, how much i already knew, and asked to meet him to ask him a few questions on the project. He met with me and now i find myself directing the study working alongside him as opposed to working under him. The main thing here is that know something about ure topic before u apporach these doctors, most will want to invest time in you if you are interested and knowledgeable in the topic.
Just approach the doctor and set up a meeting, dont give up be persistent, also look for others to work with.