Conducting research is a major part of the path leading up to your career in medicine. In terms of money, millions of dollars are spent annually on research. Because of this, getting research opportunities is an essential part of building a strong medical school application, especially if you are aiming to go to a research school.
But how do you find research opportunities? This is the difficult part. Here are a few tips to help you find research opportunities.
Who Should You Talk To?
The first place that you will want to start is a job site, if your school has one. Search and find what opportunities you can apply to.
Try Your Career Center
Don’t be afraid to check out your campus’ career center too. The reason why they are on campus is to help people like you, so take full advantage of that.
Let them know that you heard that pre-med research opportunities are important. If they are knowledgeable on the subject then they will help walk you through the entire process. They will take your interests into account and lead you in the right direction of who you want to talk to. The best of the best will get specific about what research opportunities are available from which professors.
Try Asking Your Fellow Students
If you have exhausted both of those options and haven’t found the research opportunity that you are looking for, your next step should be asking some of the upperclassmen that have already done their research opportunity. Find out how they were able to obtain that position. A lot of times, they will have inside knowledge that will be specific to your university.
Go Right to Your Professor for Advice
Lastly, talk to your own professors. See if they have any interest in taking students on. If they say no, don’t let that deter you. See if they have any colleagues in the department that would be willing to.
You will want to take some time to get to know your professor before you ask, so take their office hours as an opportunity for you to get to know them.
The process of setting up meetings with your professors will need to be done in multiple steps:
- Make first contact by email: Keep it simple. Tell them who you are and that you find his or her research interesting. Ask them when you can set up a meeting to talk further about the opportunity. Send this email to multiple professors that you find interesting. Make each email unique, but try to keep the template similar.
- Set up the in person meeting: Go into the meeting with decent clothing. This doesn’t mean a suit and tie. Try business casual. You want them to know that you are a professional. Professors are busy, so make sure that you are prepared, so that you aren’t wasting their time. Learn everything you can about the opportunity. This meeting is more so like an open forum than it is an interview. So have some questions ready to go. Here are a few examples for you:
- What would your duties entail?
- Would those duties change and grow as the semester goes on?
- How many hours a week will it take up?
- When would you need to put in those hours? Weekend or weeknight?
- Would you have other research assistants that you work with?
- Could it turn into a long term opportunity? Would it roll into the summer or take a few years?
- Would you work directly with the professor or would you be working under someone else?
Make sure that you are proactive when pursuing research opportunities. Be as persistent as you can and apply earlier, rather than later. You are going to want to get started before the rest of your class determines that a research opportunity is important to them too.
Image taken from Wikipedia