Will any UCSF neurology lab want my research assistance if I haven't taken Bio?

Jul 4, 2009
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Pre-Medical
I haven't taken Bio I yet. It's been about 7 years since I took it in high school, lol. I'm really interested in Neurology (majored in psychology, liked cog neuro/neuroscience). But I simply don't have foundational bio knowledge, and I can't take it until next summer because of the pre-med program I am in.

I want to start volunteering this fall. Ideally, I want to volunteer at a neurology lab at UCSF (parkinson's or multiple sclerosis) but it just seems pointless to do/try to do until I've taken Bio. I have an "offer" to help with psycho-social clinical research on drug addiction, so I'm wondering if i should just commit to that, or if i should hold out for something in neurology.

I'm wondering if I get lucky and get a reply for a neurology lab at UCSF (they seem sooooo aloof or disinterested upon initial contact), will it even be productive if I haven't taken bio yet? Or will they lock me in the basement to do data entry, and I won't even get exposed to anything cool?

On the other hand, I am wondering if I could just keep fishing for something ideal at at UCSF neurology lab, and perhaps "grow into" the role and eventually take on more sophisticated tasks as my classroom work helps prepare me for more involvement.

What do you think?

I'm gonna try to audit Bio through Berkeley Extension, which will be a 4 hour lecture once a week. Hopefully this will accelerate my preparedness to get involved with neurology research, but I'm not sure how much I'll get out of just auditing.
 
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apumic

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Sorry, but I doubt it. What good will you be w/o any bio knowledge? Maybe if you've taken loads of biopsych courses or have loads of research experience in another scientific field such that you can contribute some knowledge of research methods, but without anything to add, why would a lab want you there other than as a research participant? (I will say that w/ those things it is possible. I got offers at neuro labs studying neuro development over the lifespan and ERPs with a few years' research experience in a psych field, a single biopsych course, and a 1st author pub loosely related to neuro but mostly in my original area of research but no college bio, so it is possible if you have something to offer that the PI wants/needs.)
If you have a social psych or clinical psych research opportunity being offered right now, I'd take that for the time being. That professor can probably write you a good LOR after a year of research w/ him/her and greatly increase your chances at the dream research lab, but at this point you seem like a pretty weak candidate for the neuro lab.
 
OP
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Jul 4, 2009
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Yeah, I think you're right...sigh...

On the bright side, if i take the "softer" clinical pscyho-social gig in the meantime, after 1 year, I will be finishing up Bio I .... so that will be a good time to move onto something neuro. (Having put in substantial time/commitment to the other project).
 

schrizto

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Actually, research in any field is very, very specific. Having bio would help, but not a great deal because the information in a course is usually very general while research is much more specialized.
 
Jul 25, 2009
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I got my lab job as a first semester freshman... they taught me to do everything they needed me to do, and had me read papers specific to their field. Intro bio would have only helped marginally when I started. And you can never know what they want until you ask!
 

URHere

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Nov 20, 2007
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Whether or not the neurology lab would let you do anything interesting depends on whether or not you show them that you are a fast-learning, intelligent, motivated, and reliable research assistant during your first few weeks.

If you get the spot, learn as much as you can from anyone who is willing to teach you. Ask the PI to send you copies of his/her most recent publications, read them, and really understand them. If you don't understand, look at the papers that are referenced, find some books, or go to the internet. Make sure you have some understanding of what is going on in that lab before you set foot in there your first day.

After that, focus on the postdocs and graduate students. If you have time, and they are performing a technique, ask them if you can watch. If you are lucky, they may teach you something and soon you may be doing that technique on your own and saving everyone a ton of time. Make it your goal to learn as much as you can and I think you'd be just fine. After all, everyone feels like a moron when they start at their first lab - one semester of bio isn't going to change that a whole lot if you are willing to work a little bit harder.