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I am in my second year in biology and I want to become involved in research this summer, even if the research is not necessarily my project. I found 4~5 professors who I have not met in person and are currently doing research on a topic that I find interesting and want to learn more about. Their research topic is related to biology but more an application of biological concepts in other fields. I have experience in the lab from previous courses, but not outside of those classes, and finished all science courses in my first year well with relatively high GPA (I believe I will be able to get the NSERC based on my GPA). I am uncertain about my chances however and so I am not sure if it would be better to contact one professor at a time or all of them at once. Also would it be better to send them an email explaining why I am interested etc, or send them an email to set up a meeting time with them to express my interest in person and learn more about their research project?

Thanks in advance for any help/suggestions :)


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I guess it doesn't really matter how you go about it, but I would rank these professors in order of who you would like to work with most. Read up on their most recent publications to get an idea of their research projects before sending any emails. Send an email to them one at a time starting from the top. If you were to contact them all at the same time and ended up talking with multiple and getting offered positions to volunteer, it might be strange to turn some down after going through the whole process (maybe not, but I might be a bit sour if I took time to sit down with an Undergrad only to have them blow off the opportunity I gave them). As far as the content of the email goes, explain why you are interested in the lab, talk about how their recent publications are really interesting and you would like to get involved in the lab. Finally, say something along the lines of "I would be happy to meet and discuss this further in person if there is a time that works best for you." Hope it works out! PM me if you have any questions. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was an undergrad researcher in a lab a few years ago and actually handled the interview process of new scholarship research students. Now I am a msc and take over mentoring these students every summer. Here are my two cents of how to get a research position. 

First, do not email multiple professors are once. The university campus is a small network between profs and you'd be surprised at how often they interact with each other. If you email Prof A saying ur interested in a project and Prof B as well, and they happen to be working on the same project. You will come up in discussion and ur email asking to join the lab will get deleted. I've seen this before. I would send one email, give a few days. If no response email the next Prof.

Second, if you are interested in the lab. Send the professor a very personal email. And when I mean personal, read a few of his/her papers. Tell them ur interested in studying something that they're lab is working on. And don't be afraid to ask if you can meet in person. They actually appreciate the effort put into students who read their work. And let them know that u did! Also, another route you can take is through grad students. If you have a TA in one of ur courses whose in the lab you are interested in, talk to them. Ask questions about the lab. Ask if they need volunteers and if you can possibly switch over to a summer research position after. This works time after time. Most of the NSERC or hospital research students in my lab volunteered with us at some point then applied for the award and got it. Some stuck around for senior year thesis then grad school too. But you need to be proactive. Another route besides emailing is talking in person. If this professor is teaching you a course, go to their office hours and have a chat. Ask them if they need volunteers. Tell them you are enjoying the class and read a few of their papers and would like to work on 'such and such'. This is the route I've seen the most success in. When I TA I rarely get a few students that make an effort to open discussion about working in my lab. But those who do, I try my best to see how I can help. 

It's all up to you. Put yourself out there. Be humble. If you get a rejection, that's ok. Sometimes there isn't funding or a professor has too many students to juggle. Don't take it personally and keep trying. Good luck. Mssg if u have questions. 


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