Undergraduate research opportunities offer students a chance to explore diverse careers and graduate study, build transferable and technical skills, design and defend their work, and impact and contribute knowledge to their world.
Your first step is identifying what research interests you. You can begin by reading through on-campus research jobs or the websites of professors or institutions that often offer research opportunities.
What projects do you want to learn more about? Take time to find and read the lab’s recent publications. Discuss topics you want to explore through research with your academic advisor or your professors in office hours. Ask if they know colleagues who are pursuing your research interests.
Identify two or three principal investigators (PI’s) who run research labs that interest you. Take time to learn more about them by reading their publications. If you can, take classes from Colby professors you hope to work with in research settings. Ask your faculty advisor if they can make an introduction or give advice on how to introduce yourself. You can offer to take professors out to lunch too (it is free for you to take a professor to lunch in one of the dining halls).
Speak with peers and former student researchers about their experiences in these labs. Ask questions about what it is like to work under this PI, the pace and scope of the lab’s work, and what kind of support and opportunities undergraduate researchers receive in the lab. Think about how much time you can commit to research each week and whether this lab’s work expectations are a fit for your schedule.
Once you are ready to ask for a research opportunity, go to the professor’s office hours or schedule a one-on-one appointment to talk about research opportunities.
Research institutions often open applications for government-and grant-funded summer research internship programs for undergraduates between November and February. DavisConnects STEM and pre-health advisors maintain a spreadsheet of more than 400 grant-funded science internships, which they will send out each year in late fall. To apply for these positions you will often need a resume, cover letter, and two or three letters of recommendation or references.
If the application doesn’t offer a specific personal statement prompt, be sure to address the following: