How do I start to look for a position in a research lab as an undergraduate? It’s a question I’ve been getting a lot recently, especially from students who have just completed their first year of university and from entering students. It is a very daunting question to go about answering on your own, especially if you, like the majority of new university science students, have never worked in a lab before. Where do you start looking? Who should you contact? How?
The unfortunate reality is that there are very few formal structures within the university that address this issue. At certain institutions and in certain departments, there are project-based courses where students are able to earn academic credit for working on a project in a research lab. However, these courses still demand that the student find a supervisor on hir own. Very few of these courses are set up to support the student in hir search for an appropriate lab, either due to a lack of administrative resources or to the belief that finding a lab should be done on the student’s own initiative. However, initiative, though certainly commendable, is hardly sufficient to instruct a student on how to find a lab to work with, much as they may be eager to do so.