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Undergraduate Research

Research is a unique experience that every undergraduate should try to experience at least once. Some students end up co-authoring research papers and make great connections which will help them in the future when considering professional programs, graduate studies or a job. There are multiple opportunities to get into research and I would like to share a few with you.

1. Intro-research courses offered by your department (Ex: Chem-299, Biol-299, etc.)

Almost every faculty offers an introductory research course. Enrolling in an intro-research course is a great way to get started in research. You are usually paired with a graduate student and you will conduct research on a small part of your graduate student supervisor’s project. The time commitments are pretty manageable (approx. 4hrs a week) and you will get a good idea about how research works. These courses give you only 1.5 credits per semester so consider doing them over 2 semesters or pairing these courses with another 1.5 credit course.

If you really like your project, you can try and do summer research which will help you explore a lot about the project as you will be working full time during the summer. You should still be happy even if you didn’t like your project as you already got some experience and can now explore different fields of research.

2. Approach professors directly

You can approach a professor directly and talk to them about conducting research in their lab if you don’t want to take an intro-research course. Some student’s want to conduct research only over the summer so that they can concentrate on their courses during the year, in which case talking to the professor directly may be a better option.

When sending an email to the professor, keep the following in mind:

i. Go through the professor’s lab webpage and read about their research. Read the next steps if you like their research or else try to read about another professor’s research.

ii. Make sure the email is professional, address the professor with the appropriate title and be formal.

iii. Introduce yourself, state your program and your year of study. It is a good idea to mention how you got to know about them (faculty website, friend conducted research with them ,etc.)

iv. In one short paragraph, explain what you want to conduct your research on (refer to i.) and why that particular area interests you.

v. Attach your resume and ask if you can meet them sometime soon to talk about research.

Also don’t be sad if you don’t hear back! Professor’s may not reply if they don’t have a position available.They might take some time to reply as they are busy, so be patient.

You can also contact professors from other universities if their work really interests you.

3. Summer research opportunities at other universities (Canada and abroad) :

Make sure you check the go-abroad page and also your faculty webpage to find amazing opportunities that might be the right fit for you. In the go-abroad page you can find courses that you can take for credit around the world. You can get financial support to travel abroad and explore a new place while taking classes that count towards your degree! In terms of research, RISE (Germany) and AMGEN Scholars program (Japan) are amazing programs that are competitive to get into. Programs like these might be the best for you if you want to explore a new place and culture while performing research.

There are many other such programs, do your own research and you will be amazed at all the opportunities you have in reach.

Have a great semester!


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