Research experience is becoming essential for medical school applicants. But for an undergraduate student it is very difficult to find a research position even if you know you need this experience. Some schools have programs geared towards undergraduate student research and you can use these programs to find research projects accepting applications for open positions. Unfortunately, this kind of service is not always available, and even if it is, does not always actually lead to research opportunities for the applicants because the number of open positions is very limited.
To find a research opportunity you have to personally reach out to professors at your school and at nearby universities and medical centers. You have to take initiative and find those scientists and physicians who are doing research in an area that interests you and then you have to contact them. You have to be prepared for rejection and you have to be ready to contact the next person on your list. If you decide to e-mail this physician or scientist you could use the following script:
“Dear Dr. X,
I am an undergraduate student at Y University and I am looking for an opportunity to get involved with research in the field of Z. I have read about some of the work your lab does and I found it to be very intriguing. If you would allow me to volunteer my time to help with your research I would greatly appreciate it. I think it would really allow me to learn about the research process and how it contributes to the field of Z in specific. I understand if you are not able to accommodate at this time. If you know of any other research opportunities, please let me know. I have attached my CV for your reference.
What to Expect...
If you contact enough people you will succeed in finding a position. Once you gain experience in one position you can leverage this experience for more in depth positions. For your first research position have the following expectations:
- Work for free
- You will not get published
- You will do some menial work
After your first experience or as you grow in your position you should strive for the following:
- Work for credit or money
- To get published
- To do meaningful lab or clinical research work
- Extracurricular Activities
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