The leaders of fiNDscience offer the following answers to frequently asked questions that will hopefully be helpful to you.
How are you compensated for research?
There are two main ways in which an undergraduate student is compensated for their hours committed to research. The simpler of these is straightforward hourly pay that ranges from minimum wage ($7.25 in Indiana) to skilled wage ($8.25) based on the lab’s funds and the work performed. The other method of compensation is school credit usually from 1-3 credit hours per semester that affects student GPA and can fill lab requirements depending on your major.
How should you contact professors?
After looking over the professor’s page and their website, if they have a separate one, if you are truly interested in the research you can reach out to most professors via email. There are some professors who want to be contacted in person, so pay attention to any preferences listed on their page.
When do people typically get involved in research?
Most students begin research at the beginning of sophomore year. Some students do start earlier and some start later, but that can depend on the type of research you want to do, how soon you adjust to college life, and what background knowledge is needed for the research. It is helpful to reach out to professors during the semester before you plan to start researching so that you can get started on the project or in the lab at the start of a semester.
How important is undergraduate research for pursuing futher education in medical school, graduate school, or other professional schools?
Medical school and graduate school programs have varying expectations on the research experience you have gotten during your undergraduate schooling. Some programs, typically PhD or MD/PhD, require that you have had some form of research experience prior to applying. For other programs, research experience can be helpful in the application process especially if research is a part of their mission. Undergraduate research offers opportunities to develop critical analysis and communication skills that are valuable in anything you pursue after graduation. Involvement in undergraduate research can also help you discern careers that might fit your interest.
For more information, click on the links below.
Why get involved in research?
- Research allows you to have the same curiosity you had as a little kid, when you asked big questions about how the world worked. It gives you the chance to explore specific areas of disciplines in great detail, and shows you the processes that lead to the discovery of information used to guide our world.
- Research experience is looked upon highly by medical schools and some form of experience is required by graduate schools.
- Research provides practical experience that is beneficial to a variety of potential career paths, and develops accountability, problem-solving abilities, and persistence.
- Provides you with excellent sources for letters of recommendation, as research reveals your abilities, demeanor and work ethic to you professor.
How do conferences work? What is it? How can you go or present?
Conferences are large meetings of academics, professionals, and students that focus on research in a particular field. Generally, there will be presentations and poster sessions. Certain conferences may also offer discussion and training sessions. You can attend conferences for the learning experience without presenting, or you can submit an abstract prior to a conference and present a poster or give a talk. It is best to talk to the professor you are working with to find out what conferences are related to the research you are conducting. Funding may also be available for conference fees and travel.
To learn more about funding opportunities see http://cuse.nd.edu/undergraduate-research/funding-research/university-grants/conference-attendance/.
What does it mean to get published? How can you go about doing it?
To be published means that you have led or assisted a research project, have submitted a report of your findings to a research journal, and that your work has been approved by the journal for printing. The way to become published is to join a lab, and either create a project under the guidance of a research professor, or assist with the project of a professor or other high level researcher. These opportunities typically come after spending some time in a lab (often a year, but this is not a fixed rule), and having become familiar with laboratory procedures and the work of the lab.
How can it be beneficial to be published?
Being published demonstrates that you have been strongly involved in the research process, are persistent and motivated, and that you have the skills necessary to successfully contribute to your research field. While graduate schools often look highly on the applications of those who are published, you can remain unpublished and still remain a competitive candidate for graduate programs. Undoubtedly, students who are not published can be equally as persistent, motivated and competent as those who are. Being published simply serves as a clear indicator that you are competent researcher.
What if I am interested in switching labs?
Wanting to switch labs is not the end of the world. In fact, it happens more often than you might think. Professors understand that it takes time for students to pinpoint their interests, so feel free to allow classes, conversations with other professors, etc. to reshape your goals and redirect your focus. Lab availability varies, so while some labs may not be looking for upper-level students in transition, it does not mean that you will not be able to find openings. Remember that many skills you learn in your first lab experience will be transferrable to others.
How long does it take to move up in the ladder (basic responsibilities to more advanced)?
This will depend on the lab and the individual, but students can expect more basic work within the first year which may include reading related literature and becoming familiar with foundational laboratory techniques and concepts. The second year often comes with more advanced work and responsibilities, with the possibility of planning and implementing individual projects by the end of the year. However, it is also the case that individual projects (if one is interested in pursuing their own research project) begin for students in either their junior or beginning of their senior year. It should be stressed that an individual’s research experience varies greatly depending on the field, the particular lab, and the individual’s interest in conducting research.
Also, feel free to ask professors these same questions. Most professors will be able to tell you what you could expect if you were to join their lab.