How to Start Undergraduate Research


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This was a training I developed during my tenure as president of the World Health Organization of Students at UCI.

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How to Start Undergraduate Research

  2. 2. What Research Should Mean “ Careful or diligent search, studious inquiry or examination; especially : investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws, the collecting of information about a particular subject” – MERIAM WEBSTERS Dictionary Research : What it Really Means “ Analyzing topics in science and thought through the profiling of facts, laws, trends, phenomena, statistics, effects, causes and pathways regarding a specific or general subject in nature or a scientific model.” -Everyone that actually counts
  3. 3. What Research Should Mean to You YOU MEANING: The philanthropic individual The constructive member of society The student The premed major who wants to go to medical school and will do the impossible to get there. Learning and studying medical topics that are a concern for humanity and looking for novel methods or treatments for therapeutic purposes with the hope that these advances might one day save the lives of citizens across the world. There is perhaps no field of research that is more noble or most respected than medical research, for it seeks to prolong the life of humanity and preserve without agendas or goals.
  4. 4. Perks of Medical Research <ul><li>-Learn at an accelerated rate, the things you learn in class </li></ul><ul><li>-Gain skills most people in your major only know from theoretical perspectives </li></ul><ul><li>Hands on experience and knowledge of techniques used by professionals and highly respected when seen on a resume </li></ul><ul><li>Get to go places such as international conferences, seminars, conventions where you meet the top experts in your specific area of medical expertise </li></ul><ul><li>Getting published is the next best thing to an excellent GPA and makes up for bad ones. </li></ul><ul><li>Lots of money involved in research namely in medicine and biology (Biology alone accounts for 66% of UCI’s income for research. </li></ul><ul><li>An excellent career for medical school </li></ul><ul><li>A lifetime investment in yourself and for your field </li></ul>
  5. 5. How Do I get Involved in Research R espectable academic background E xplore your interests S elect your faculty E xplain yourself to the faculty A sk questions R ead diligently C harismatic and active around lab H aving a constructive relationship with your mentor/faculty
  6. 6. Respectable Academic Standing 1. At least 3.0 cumulative GPA and above 3.0 science GPA 2. Taking Special interest courses (i.e. if you are into oncology, take oncology specific classes)- Its not impressive to have courses you have had to take. Jack’s Transcript First Quarter Chemistry IA Bio Sci 94 Second Quarter Chemistry IB Bio Sci 96 Jill’s Transcript First Quarter Chemistry IA Bio Sci 94 Freshman Seminar (Cancer) Second Quarter Chemistry IB Bio Sci 96 Bio 25 (Cancer Biology)
  8. 8. Select Your Faculty <ul><li>Look the faculty up in the directory of his/her department . </li></ul><ul><li>OR in the Bio 199 section of the quarter schedule of classes </li></ul><ul><li>Know what he or she physically look like. </li></ul><ul><li>Read their profiles and research interests, are they conducting research that is relevant to advances in medicine and health? </li></ul><ul><li>Obtain their contact information namely email </li></ul><ul><li>Pick more than one possible faculty member, </li></ul><ul><li>-there are some who might want to hold off on taking you in until you have finished some requirements, </li></ul><ul><li>- Some will not care to respond to your email </li></ul><ul><li>- Some might say no for no reason or because their lab is full or because they can not or do not have staff who can mentor. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Explain Yourself to the Faculty <ul><li>WHO ARE YOU </li></ul><ul><li>WHY ARE YOU INTERESTED </li></ul><ul><li>ATTACH A CV </li></ul><ul><li>VERY FORMAL LETTER FORMAT </li></ul><ul><li>VERY POLITE AND EAGER </li></ul>SUCESSFUL EXAMPLE Dear Dr. Wagner, Greetings my name is Ahmed Ibrahim and I am a second year Biology and Chemistry Major at UCI. I am very interested in the work that your lab conducts regarding infectious cycles of the herpes simples virus. I am writing to inquire about a possible 199 research position in your lab. Research is something I love to do very much and I would very much appreciate it if you would provide me with this invaluable opportunity of furthering my knowledge and experience in this field. Attached is my CV for your review. Thank you very much and I look forward to hearing from you. Regards, Ahmed Ibrahim
  10. 10. Score! Sure Why not, but first I’ll need to interview you hot shot! Monday 10:00 AM, my office! He’s Probably Thinking This guy’s probably looking for a letter of rec. for med school. Or he might just be interested in my lab’s research, that would be worth having him, think about it why would I invest my time, energy, and precious supplies teaching someone whose only in it for the name and not much else…I guess we’ll see on Monday The deal is not as done as you think it is!
  11. 11. FIVE MAIN QUESTIONS BABY! <ul><li>After the whole “Tell me a little about yourself” </li></ul><ul><li>What do you plan to do with your professional career? </li></ul><ul><li>Have you done any previous research? </li></ul><ul><li>Why do you like research? Why herpes viruses </li></ul><ul><li>How long to you plan to stay with us? (1 quarter?, 2?) </li></ul><ul><li>How much time are you willing to contribute in lab? </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>BEST ANSWERS (ignore specifics) </li></ul><ul><li>I plan on earning an M.D. in Epidemiology and work for the World Health Organization. </li></ul><ul><li>Yes I have done research on retroviruses and their infectious pathways </li></ul><ul><li>OR </li></ul><ul><li>No, I have not, this is my first time and I am very excited about learning a lot and gaining valuable experience </li></ul><ul><li>3. Even though I plan on practicing medicine, I believe that research is an integral part of clinical science as it paves the way for more novel advances in healthcare. So I would like to strengthen myself in the research arena to strengthen myself as a future physician. </li></ul><ul><li>4. I am looking for long term commitments so I plan on staying with your lab for my undergraduate term. </li></ul><ul><li>5. (Guys, honestly the more you can contribute the better), typically they ask for anywhere between 8-20 hour a week but don’t let that discourage you. Be diplomatic) </li></ul>
  14. 14. Asking Questions When you start in lab, you will probably be working with a Post-Doc or a grad student on a project that is already going. When you sit down with your lab person ask them a lot of questions on your research so that you understand it completely what you are doing in theory. This means that you will be referred to a lot of material to read and digest. That is a good start. Whenever possible, use the information you learned in your discussion with him or her so that they can see progress. Whenever you have questions about the reading, go back and ask, this might mean more reading but you are learning a lot and gaining the respect of your PI and associates. Reading Diligently
  15. 15. Charismatic and active around lab Don’t ever sit around doing nothing in lab. If you are waiting on something, or waiting for your PI to finish something, always have something to read, preferably, a journal article. Do not use the lab PC’s for games, or other recreational purposes, it could cost you your stay in research. Above all, don’t look lazy and uninterested or fall asleep, it builds you a bad reputation of being a slob.
  16. 16. Have a good relationship with your faculty Always stop by and say hi, or asking questions related to research, or maybe something interesting you read about the topic. Attend lab meetings and be vocal Inquire about conferences and always keep an ear out for seminars and other event related to research (especially international conferences -ohh yeah) But don’t expect to be invited unless you have contributed something
  17. 17. Any Questions? Help with writing emails, CV’s? Ahmed Ibrahim [email_address]