Research. The never ending quest to discover the unknown, that all to often leads you to more questions than answers. If you’re a pre-med student like me, or if you plan on going into any form of post-graduate education you know how important research is. If you’re unsure about your plans after college, I’ll let you in on a little secret– research will help you gain more professional connections, enhance your chances at landing a dream job, and just give you more experience in something that you’re passionate about.
There is research everywhere, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a psychology, chemistry, finance, or forestry major; I guarantee you there is research being done in your field. Humans are greedy, we want the best of everything and in order find the best you have to explore a little.
I currently have a research position at The University of Western Australia, partnered with Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and Cancer Western Australia, looking at hormonal effects of/on breast cancer. However, a new study looking at Indigenous populations is in the works, and I’ve been training with DNA research of head and neck cancer as well. You may wonder how this is possible for someone under the age of 20, but I promise it’s easier than you think.
Where to even begin?
Whether you’re a Uni student or not, the place that you’re most likely to find entry level research opportunities is at a University near you. If you’ve had some research experience and are looking for a step up, I would suggest looking at a professional medical or business center.
Most University’s have a tab on their home page dedicated to ongoing research and its conductors– let’s face it, as humans we love to brag. I would suggest creating a spreadsheet of all of the research going on in your field that interests you with the name and contact information of the person who is conducting it. Rejection is imminent so a list of 7-12 is a good start in my opinion. However, do NOT be snobby when trying to find research. Anything that sounds remotely interesting should go on your list because you never know what you’ll end up enjoying.
So I have a list.. Now what?
Here’s a tip that will set you apart from everyone else applying for research opportunities, and it’s so simple many people over look it. Do research on the researcher. Familiarize yourself with their past publications, read and summarize their articles so you’ll have talking points. On top of that, their previous research will be a big indication as to whether or not you’ll actually enjoy/want to work for them.
Now that you’ve compiled everything, you’re ready to send emails. I personally have a generic email template and swap out the researcher’s name and details in order to save time and effort. I usually try to make the subject something more than just, “Undergrad research opportunity.” First impressions are everything, and they may not open your email if they’re swamped with hundreds of others. Make your subject catchy, yet professional like, “Undergrad interested in your FSH work.” Click on the document below to see one of the many research emails I’ve sent!
Remember the more emails you send, the more likely you are to get a response. In addition, if the researcher wants to meet you should never say no. Researchers talk, so even if they may not have a space in their lab, they may know someone who does. At the end of the day connections are everything.
Going above and beyond
Many people ask me how I got a research position while abroad because the requirements and lab standards can vary between countries. When applying for a job, you hand out a resume, so I decided to make a research resume with all of my previous experience divided into subject matter. This made things a lot easier because at the end of the email, it was just a file attachment and a, “P.S. If you’re interested in seeing what experience I have, it’s in the attached file.” Most people are extremely impressed by those who a. took the time to look at their work, and b. made a resume of everything they’ve ever done in a lab. It shows dedication and passion, which is exactly what researchers want in their labs. Click on the document below to see my research resume.
To sum it up..
People are going to tell you no, but when one door closes the back door or window opens. Life is too short to accept no for an answer and if you’re truly passionate, you will always find something else. John Lennon once said, “life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” Everything happens for a reason, and life tends to work itself out as long as you have patience and vision. Best of luck finding research and I hope you all discover something life altering in your practice!
I believe in you!