Will working in a bio lab still look good on a psychology application?

Dec 20, 2013
Psychology Student
I am a sophomore in undergrad and am majoring in psychology and minoring in biology. I have a great connection to a professor studying pancreatic cancer and she has given me an opportunity to work in her lab, which is good because i have no other experience and don't know where to start otherwise. My ultimate goal is to continue to get a phD and do research (especially the biological side of psych), so does working in a research environment, using the scientific method, collecting data, etc. make up for the fact that it's not psychology based? Or would I be better off looking for something more directly related? I really need to get good experience because my GPA isn't the best...

which also makes me wonder: I have taken/ plan to take especially challenging classes compared to other psych majors that I know (lots of lab based sciences for my bio minor) and my GPA therefore is lower... will admissions to phD programs care/ notice that I challenged myself? or would I be better off dropping the bio and just focusing on getting A's?


5+ Year Member
Jul 2, 2013
I say take advantage of this opportunity to get some initial research experience for all of the reasons you already stated (working in lab environment, collecting data, etc.). It may not be directly related, but you may develop lab skills that you can apply later on, especially if you are interested in biological psychology. I'll give you an example: one summer I got the chance to work in a Drosophila genetics lab. I used my genetics experience (PCR, gel electrophoresis, RNA extraction) plus my psych and bio coursework to apply for a behavioral genetics internship studying alcoholism in mice. This internship got me my current job working with GABA receptors in mice at a psychiatric research hospital. Join the lab for now, then look for labs/internships that study what you're interested in once you have some initial experience.

As far as coursework: continue with your bio minor. If you plan to study biological bases of behavior or neuroscience, grad schools need to see that you can handle that material well. You're only a sophomore and have time to boost your GPA. I'd focus on meeting the requirements for a bio minor and doing well in the labs and courses. Don't use labs as an excuse for a lower GPA, use them to say "yes, I took challenging courses and I still finished strong." Best of luck!

aly cat

Assistant Professor
10+ Year Member
Feb 3, 2009
I agree with bluemirage but to add on, as someone who hires research assistants, ANY experience in ANY research lab gets a few extra points in my scoring for interview invitations. It tells me that you have some experience with all those things you mentioned in your original post and thus there is less that I need to teach you and you likely have a better idea of what you are getting yourself into. When I applied I had one year of bio research and one year of psych research and while I didn't get scores of interviews like some people, I got enough to secure admission to a program :).

I also took the bio route and my GPA was much lower than many SDNers (and others) will tell you that you need to gain admission.. granted, I applied 6 years ago but my GPA was a 3.2 due to some Cs in organic chem etc., but I think my GRE score demonstrated that I was still strong academically. Many schools also specifically request your psychology GPA in addition to your cumulative or most recent 2 years, so I believe that helped me in that when comparing psychology to psychology versus overall, I was just as strong. I say all this with the caveat that not every advisor is going to be fine with a lower GPA-- but if you are ultimately applying to advisors who research bio psych, I'd wager (my opinion, I do not have data) that there would be more leniency.