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Finding an Undergraduate Research Lab as a Pre-Med Student

One of the mainstays of pre-med extracurricular involvement is research. Research is an excellent way to show that you can take command and responsibility for a project, see it through to something productive, and have opportunities to present your research and get awards for your hard work – all things that medical schools love to see in their applicants!

||Read: Benefits of Undergraduate Medical Research||

Research is exciting, a great way to push the boundaries of medicine and science, and important for aspiring doctors to maintain intellectual curiosity. However, because all pre-meds know that it is so important to be involved in research, it can be very competitive to find and get accepted into a good lab. Here are some tips to help you find a research lab:

Identify a supportive mentor:

Most universities will have a list of research mentors that have openings for undergraduate students. Try to find a mentor that has had undergraduates before – those are the mentors who know what level an undergrad can contribute at and can help you identify appropriate projects. Look through the mentor’s list of publications and see if any undergraduates have published papers with that mentor. Being productive is a huge bonus and can really help your medical school application. It is less important what specific topic the lab works on; the most important thing is that the mentor will be supportive of your endeavors and help you succeed!

Make sure that your schedule puts you in the best position to succeed:

In order to contribute enough in a basic science lab to learn the techniques and apply them towards a productive project, labs are looking for folks who have at least 10-15 hours per week in their schedule to work in the lab. If you’re trying to join a lab at the same time as taking the MCAT and multiple science courses, that might not be the best time. Also try to have taken some hands-on science courses before joining a lab. Labs always appreciate when their students come in with some basic understanding and mastery of lab techniques.

||Read: What should I do this summer as a premed? ||

Be ready to send multiple emails:

Research mentors are very busy, and sometimes it can be very hard to pin them down to request an interview/meeting with them. Some people also don’t have available projects or are already mentoring too many students, so you may get more rejection emails than acceptance emails. Don’t give up, but make sure you’re always polite in your emails – you never know when a spot might open up, and you can get accepted later on! Your email should include your name, year/major, research interests and passion for their specific work (be sure to spend time looking into what they do and be able to talk about it!), an attached CV, and your availability for meeting in person. Your CV should include coursework (with techniques that you’ve learned), leadership experiences, previous research / work experience, and honors/awards.