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Basic Research Search Questions


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Some that are likely high yield (in no particular order):

What are your career aspirations?

What are your research interests/do you have an interest in ____________ (whatever it is the prof studies)?

What made you interested in my work?

What makes you a good fit for my lab?

What are you hoping to take away from this experience?

Do you have any experience/background in ___________ (some experimental technique)?

What is your availability like?  How much time can you devote to doing lab work?

Do you have any ideas pertaining to _________ (whatever it is the prof studies)?
Do you have any questions for me?


Most likely, you'll only get one or two of these.  Every PI has their own style and own criteria for choosing students.  They are the best judge of who will fit in in their lab.  My PI routinely rejects objectively stellar undergrad students (4.0 GPA, prior research experience etc.) simply because they would disturb the existing group dynamic.

My advice, as cliche as it may be, is to be genuine.  You don't have to know all the seminal papers in the specific research area, nor do you have to be well versed in all of the relevant experimental techniques.  The key is to be upfront about it.  "Although I haven't had a true formal research experience, I've always been interested in the scientific process and I hope to build a foundation of skills that will allow me to continue to be involved in research throughout my undergrad and perhaps beyond.  This is my main drive for starting early as a first year student"  That said, do read the most recent papers by your PI and come up with a few ideas that maybe relevant to the work.  They don't have to be brilliant ideas, but at least it shows you've thought about the work and have a true scientific curiosity.  Curiosity and work ethic are the key ingredients to a successful researcher.  


Also, it looks good when you have a few questions ready for the PI.  How big is your lab? Is there opportunity for undergraduate students to have an independent research project?  The answers to these questions may influence your own decision to work in the lab!

Don't stress out and enjoy the experience!  Good luck

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