Want to get research experience as an undergrad?

This is the first step if you think you’d like to be a professional biologist, or if you think you’d like research. First of all, what might research as an undergrad in a biology lab be like? See these posts (1, 2) by students working in my lab for an idea. If you want to stay local, look at the faculty websites at your school. If anything piques your interest, contact the individual faculty member! But, please put a thoughtful, intelligent email together when you do so. Here are some things that I look for when I am deciding which students will do research in my lab. Doing research as an undergrad, especially during the school semester, can be difficult given a full course load. Here are some tips to help. In fact, there is a whole blog dedicated to doing research as an undergrad that I often have undergrads in my lab read! And of course, get different perspectives. For instance, here is what Dr. Ryan McEwan, also in the bio department here at UD, requires of students in his lab.

How to find internships and volunteer opportunities

  • Work in a lab on campus. If you don’t know what you might be interested in doing, reach out to a faculty member in the department, whose research you’re interested in. Talk to them about what they do. If you’re interested in what they do, ask them if they are accepting undergraduates to do research in their lab.
    • If you get really interested in doing research in the particular lab that you’re working in, or have a great idea of how you might further the research on your own (i.e., do some independent research), look into small grants that you might apply for to pay you to do research through your university. UD has the Keck Fellowships in Environmental Biology.
  • Subscribe to a job board or listserv. Most disciplines have job boards or listservs that they use to advertise jobs on. Figure out what these are for whatever discipline that you’re interested in. For ecology:
  • Read!!! You also need to be reading textbooks and current papers in whatever discipline that you’re interested in. In ecology, suggestions are Ecology, Journal of Ecology, Ecology Letters, Oecologia, Oikos. If any papers or examples of research in textbooks make you really excited, figure out who / where the authors are, and contact them to see if they have any positions available! Use the basic format in the “Letters of inquiry to potential advisors below”.
  • Look to see what researchers have money. You could also look for active National Science Foundation Division of Environmental Biology awards. I think if you were going to start here, which I agree might be a good way to find people currently with money to do stuff you’re interested in–> export the whole list, and try going through and searching based on particular words that you might be interested in.

For UD undergrads, links to Dayton area internships:

National-wide job boards:


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