Undergraduate Molecular Biology students at UW-Madison are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with some of the world’s leading researchers. Many opportunities for laboratory research experience are available on campus for undergraduate students and this type of experiences is strongly encouraged. Such an experience provides students the opportunity to apply what they’re learning and compliment their knowledge with practical skills. Research experience is highly valued by employers, graduate programs, and professional schools.
Finding a Research Experience
Check out the Institute for Biology Education’s guide to finding a research mentor.
The Wisconsin Discovery Portal is a database of campus researchers and their research projects. You can search by your area of interest.
The UW Student Job Center often posts lab assistant positions.
Check out the Cellular and Molecular Biology Faculty Directory to explore researchers in Molecular Biology.
Tips for Contacting Potential Research Mentors
Once you have identified research mentors with which you are interested in working, it is time to contact them. Many research mentor relationships begin with an email. By sending an email, your potential research mentor has the opportunity to review your materials (i.e. resume, cover letter, etc.) before responding.
When drafting your email, it is important to remember that you need to make a case for yourself. You need to show the potential research mentor that you are qualified and worth speaking with further. Check out these tips to consider when writing your email.
Keep in mind that some researchers may not be hiring, that they are often quite busy, and that one research lab may be a better fit for you than another. As such, it is to your benefit to contact multiple research mentors that you are interested in working alongside. And remember – it may take a few attempts before you make contact! So be polite and considerate of response time, but keep on trying if do not make contact right away.
Sealing the Research Deal
If asked to interview, make sure you are:
- On time
- Enthusiastic, motivated, and yourself!
- Prepared to discuss your interest in the position and why you are a good fit
- Knowledgeable of the research taking place in the lab
- Prepared to ask questions about the position and your role in the lab
- Geared with copies of transcripts, resumes, cover letters, etc.
Getting Started in Your Research Role
A successful research experience is grounded in mutually accepted and understood expectations. It is important that you meet with your mentor to discuss what your role will be, what you hope to gain from the experience, what your mentor expects of you, what you would like to research, etc.
Consider using a Mentor/Mentee Contract to help build your research relationship with your mentor.
Other Resources for Getting Started
- Check out these programs for information on research opportunities such as the Hilldale Research Fellowship, McNair Scholars Program, Undergraduate Research Scholars, Wisconsin Idea Undergraduate Fellowships, and many more!
- The annual Undergraduate Research Symposium is a great way to explore what other students are doing on campus for research, service-learning, and community-based research. Attending the annual event and speaking with fellow students is a great way to learn about what others have done and how they did it!
- Talk to peer mentors with undergraduate research experience in Biology. Keep checking back for updates on dates and times the peer mentors are available.
- Interested in applying for campuswide awards and nationally competitive scholarships for research, service, leadership and scholarship? Check out the Undergraduate Academic Awards Office to learn more!
- Stay on top of what’s going on around campus in research! Knowing what is happening on campus is a great way to identify areas of interest and labs that you might be interested in contacting.
- Search the 50+ research centers and programs associated with UW-Madison