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Alisha D'souza's picture

Getting into Research

The University of Minnesota prides itself on being a research university with abundant opportunities for undergraduate students. However, as an incoming freshman with little to no experience conducting any sort of research in labs, it can be daunting to take the first steps toward finding a research position. I was awarded the Undergraduate Research Scholarship when I applied to the U. I did not understand how they expected me to conduct my own research project when I did not have any experience whatsoever. I found out soon enough that getting involved in research is an easier process than it seems, and nowhere near as scary!

First, I looked up all the current research taking place at the U by looking at faculty profiles on department websites. I have always been extremely interested in Neuroscience, so that's where I looked first. I found multiple faculty whose work seemed interesting. I emailed all of them individually, letting them know I was a freshman with no prior research experience. I also let them know why I found their research interesting, which helped to make each email more personal, and gave the impression that I actually read about their work. Additionally, I clearly stated that I was willing to start as a volunteer in the lab until I learned all the basic techniques that would be needed to pursue my own project.

Two out of three professors that I emailed replied to me. One of them said they had no available positions in their lab currently, but the other professor agreed to meet with me. I was extremely nervous. I dressed up semi-formally and read as much of her research as I could understand. At the meeting, I told her that I was interested in pursuing my own research project some day, especially since I had been given that scholarship. She was very nice and seemed genuinely excited about me working in her lab. I have been in that same lab for 2 years now, and have even conducted my own research project. I am so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and got involved in research. I promise, it's easier than it sounds!