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Research Questions

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Dayfed, May 7, 2007.

  1. Dayfed

    Dayfed 2+ Year Member

    Apr 7, 2007

    I'm a freshman and am interested in starting to do research. The problem is that I have been emailing professors left and right about opportunities, trying to get volunteer or paid work in a lab, but I haven't gotten any responses. Should I just keep trying? I've only contacted Neuroscience Researchers, since that is my major. Should I contact other professors in different labs like Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology? I think some of this is due to the fact that I go to a large research university. I always thought that helped me, but maybe it's a negative because of so much competition.
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  3. ADeadLois

    ADeadLois Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Dec 18, 2005
    Keep trying. The fact that you're a freshmen may be the inhibiting factor.
  4. TheGreatHunt

    TheGreatHunt High Performance 7+ Year Member

    Jan 5, 2007
    Getting a research job requires a lot of dedication to pestering professors, try to make it in a good way though. Make sure you read up on their articles and write them a little something about what makes you interested in their work.
  5. PBandJ

    PBandJ hot dog back in action! Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    I also advise that you keep trying. It is tough to get a research position as a freshman with no previous research experience. You may have your best luck trying to set something up for the summer, and then seeing if you can continue that through the year as an independent study. I'm assuming you've checked out opportunities at your school, but have you thought about going elsewhere? Also, see if your school has any resources for you (e.g. formal summer research programs that you can apply to directly). Best of luck.
  6. pennybridge

    pennybridge Banned Banned

    Oct 13, 2006
    ^this is the correct answer.

    Take any lab classes you can this year and keep trying. Generally professors are too busy to teach someone with no experience what a pipette is. I'd stay away from Professors you will have to take classes from, because then it will be hard for you to leave the lab in the case that all you do is wash glassware.

    if your school has a med school, try and work for a PI that isn't associated with the undergrad departments.
  7. speedyE

    speedyE 2+ Year Member

    Oct 11, 2006
    Definitely a good piece of advice. Read a couple of their research articles and try to understand what they are doing the best you can. Obviously you will not understand 90% of it, but if you can find a few things that do interest you and elaborate on these things to the PIs, I think you will get a positive response.

    I started research as a freshman and did exactly the above. I was fortunate that my PI gave me the opportunity (even though I had not taken any science classes beyond gen chem), and it turned out to be a great experience (over 3 years now).
  8. Green Pirate

    Green Pirate Neurotic Neuro Enthusiast 5+ Year Member

    Nov 13, 2006
    I think this is the key... sometimes you just have to be lucky. I started at the beginning of this semester (2nd semester freshman) with absolutely no prior lab experience (aside from chem lab, but that hardly counts). My mentor has been amazingly patient with me as I have learned how to perform the procedures.

    However, I too, had to email quite a few doctors before I found someone willing to take me on. In my emails I was upfront about my lack of experience, but I also stated my interest in the research, why I was interested in that research, and that I was willing to put in whatever effort it took to learn how to be an effective lab worker. If you show your enthusiasm and you happen to contact a willing researcher, things will work out.

    My research has been my best experience in college thus far--I'm so happy I decided to seek it out, and I definitely encourage you to do the same :thumbup:
  9. cal_girl

    cal_girl Member 2+ Year Member

    Apr 27, 2006
    Apply as broadly as you can. Look outside of your major too... i love to do something quite different from my course of study..
    Professors don't usually like to take freshman for a fact bcoz he/she lacks exp. But some do love to take so... keep trying and you'll find something. Once you get some exp, you can always look for better and more advanced ones.
  10. Dayfed

    Dayfed 2+ Year Member

    Apr 7, 2007
    Thanks for all the great advice. One other question, though I may know the answer: Does it matter if it is paid or not, other than the obvious that I wouldn't be making money. Today I got one professor to answer back. He's actually part of the Psychology department, so it wouldn't be associated with my major, which I can think of as a good thing, though it does apply to some things in Neuroscience. The only factor is that it wouldn't be paid. My most likely guess is that I should keep asking around, but prioritize this offer, since it is a way to get my foot in the door. What are your thoughts?
  11. bluesTank

    bluesTank Zombie 5+ Year Member

    Feb 2, 2007
    College Station, TX
    You should get paid if you are doing anything productive in the lab. That dude is ripping you off by not paying you, don't do it.

    Just because it's a useful experience doesn't mean you shouldn't get paid. Just keep trying...

    Try setting your sights low, as in a glass washer or some crappy job like that. Then you can build up your resume. Even though you aren't getting paid much(usually minimum wage) you should be getting paid some.
  12. Green Pirate

    Green Pirate Neurotic Neuro Enthusiast 5+ Year Member

    Nov 13, 2006
    I don't necessarily think you should be looking for paid experience right off the bat. I know some people who have gotten paid right from the beginning, but I personally started doing my research on a volunteer basis. However, because I was working with this lab, my undergraduate research director offered me free housing + a stipend to continue my work over the summer.

    So while not getting paid at first may seem stupid, just having the experience may pave the way for future opportunities.
  13. diosa428

    diosa428 SDN Angel 5+ Year Member

    Feb 24, 2005
    Two things - #1, if you can't get paid, can you get academic credit for doing the research? Our school offered that option - it was called a "research tutorial" or something. #2 - at my undergrad, it was a lot easier to get into a lab if you took a class with the professor and did well in it, so they could get to know you. But I went to a small school and we had small science classes, so I'm not sure how that would work at a larger university.
  14. Catalystik

    Catalystik Providing herd protection Physician Faculty SDN Advisor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Sep 4, 2006
    Inside the tesseract
    At my university, students start looking for summer research mentors in February, so possibly, all the spots are filled by now as you started so late. This is the time to look for fall. If all the research labs in your major do not respond, look further: biology, chem, plant sciences, genomics, etc. The bench research techniques used in all the labs are similiar, and many will have some application to human medicine. The subject need not specifically be related to your major. You should be able to locate copies of all the professor's research papers on-line, so you'll know ahead of time the sort of research to expect in that lab. Only inquire if you find their topics interesting.

    There are so many students hungry for research experience that you, being so inexperienced with maybe only gen chem under your belt, are unlikely to find a position for pay, except to wash glassware. At my university, professors do not like to give summer, non-student volunteer spots out, due to liability issues, and they also say students lose their eagerness and reliability when they are risking nothing. Diosa428 has the answer: do it for credit. If all goes well, and you've worked hard, not broken too much equipment, showed up a reasonable number of hours, your mentor will be able to write you a great letter of recommendation.
  15. blargh

    blargh Banned Banned

    Oct 24, 2006
    fall of my freshman year i started looking for profs who would let me do research. all of them said "come back in a couple quarters." they wanted to see if i could cut it as a student. instead, i went out and applied for jobs at biotechs. i still got one offer on-campus, but it was with a crazy evil lady who wanted me to make powerpoint presentations. i ended up getting a biotech job that is just as good, if not better, than any of the research jobs on campus.

    biotech = more $$$ (more pay, more perks)
  16. ADeadLois

    ADeadLois Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Dec 18, 2005
    To answer an earlier question, you're probably better off doing undergrad research unpaid (for credit depending on your school's policies). If they pay you, they might make you do scut work like cleaning glass ware or tabulating data. If you do it unpaid and for academic credit, there's the understanding that you want to do something, well, academic.

    I did research in both bio and chem as an undergrad, so here's my two cents on getting some experience there:

    Bio: You need to have taken a bio class with a lab to really be considered. The lab techniques you'll need to know are covered in most pre-med lab courses. Expect a lot of early scut work.

    Chem: You generally need more sophisticated experience especially for organic labs, but once you're in you can do some really cool stuff. Some labs won't even respond to you unless you've taken synthesis lab. Being good at NMR (both running the machine and interpreting the output) is a major plus and will help you move up the ranks in the lab. Setting up and running a column is also important; it blows my mind why they don't cover this technique in a lot of undergrad orgo classes. If you can run a column and do your own NMRs, you can REALLY do some cool stuff. For inorganic labs, you can probably join without synthesis but it's hard to do your own independent stuff since a lot of labs are focused on really high-tech stuff.
  17. 135892

    135892 Guest 2+ Year Member

    Feb 5, 2007
    I'm just graduating high school, and beginning college in the fall, and I actually received many research opportunities. I just e-mailed a bunch of biology professors in May for summer positions, and got numerous opportunites, some even paid. But then again, I had three months of experience so I don't know if that played a significant role. So just e-mail a lot of professors and a few opportunities are bound to come.
  18. Aynsl156

    Aynsl156 2+ Year Member

    Apr 1, 2007
    If you have previous experience, it's much easier to get into a mol bio lab. That being said, the PIs will usually assign a grad student or a post-doc to keep tabs on you and make sure you don't **** up in the beginning. Just email a bunch of people and someone will respond. Do unpaid work for a summer if you have to, but get some experience and that'll pave the way for getting paid for later research.
  19. Ultra7

    Ultra7 Member 5+ Year Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    I think a lot of this depends on the school you go to.
    At a large institution like the OPs, it is harder.
    I think that has more to do with it than the 3 months experience.
  20. gary5

    gary5 Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Sep 24, 2003
    Meet with the head of your department and ask him/her to recommend a researcher for you. Don't ask to be paid, although maybe you will be.

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