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Topic: Approaching Research as an Undergrad  (Read 2907 times)

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Approaching Research as an Undergrad
« on: June 08, 2017, 04:19:14 AM »

I'm transferring this Fall to a UC from a community college and I'd like to hit the ground running on gaining some research experience at my new college. I've already identified a number of staff whose research I find interesting, but I'm somewhat unsure of the best way to approach them. I've knocked out general and organic chemistry classes as well as the math and physics requirements but most of my interest lies in Nuclear or Physical chemistry, which I don't have much or any exposure to as of yet. I had a summer internship in an isotope research lab, but my work was very basic.

So my question is, what is the best way to make a good impression and to approach trying to join a research group? Especially when I may not have very many "useful" skills as of yet? I'm not expecting it to be easy, but I'm eager to learn and get involved so I can better understand what I can contribute going into the future and where I may want to further specialize.

What should I include in an introductory email? Should I read and try to understand any recent papers in full before contacting them or is a relatively solid understanding of the premise of the research sufficient? Would it be a good idea to ask to speak to an undergrad or graduate student currently in the group? If you are a researcher or professor, what qualities or skills do you look for in undergrads? Would it be appropriate to ask to be referred to other researchers who may be accepting undergrads if the one contacted is not? What is the line between being "assertive" and "annoying"? Should I start emailing now, in the summer, or wait until the school year starts?

That ended up being a lot of questions...any information, context, knowledge, experience, or advice is greatly appreciated!
Thank you!

Offline Babcock_Hall

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Re: Approaching Research as an Undergrad
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2017, 11:41:01 AM »
You seem to have thought this through pretty well.  I think just having an understanding of the research is fine.  I think that the earlier you make contact, the better.  You can always ask for a short meeting first, and follow it up later after having read a relevant paper.  In terms of things that a research director looks for, students who keep to a regular work schedule every week (despite the vicissitudes of the semester) and who works well with other members of a group are two important qualities.

Offline mha695

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Re: Approaching Research as an Undergrad
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2017, 02:34:54 PM »

After I graduated college, I was in the same situation like you when I was taking summer classes at UCB with a lot of questions in my head.I would suggest you can email a lot of people in the research group that you want to join in starting the professor.
For the professor, you should do your own homework about the current research work and express your interested relate to their work. I think you can contribute your own ideas relating to the current research. You should ask if there are any open positions so that you can join or at least you can volunteer to join in.
You can also email other members to research about opening position especially the TA or RA.

My result was I emailed 10 professors from UCB, SJSU, SCU. I got 5 responses back and they all told me they would email back to me in the fall semester. However, because of my tough financial situation, I had to find the job, and I cannot volunteer to do research in the universities. I did not nudge them to remind them about the research opportunity at the end of the summer. Maybe you had a better chance because you are the student in the university so you can communicate to the professors better than me.

I hope it would help so that you will not lose the opportunity to do the undergrad research. :) :)

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