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11:52 AM on 04/26/12 
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versus_god
C I V I L W A R U S A
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Female - 23 Years Old
Anyone here work in a research lab as an undergrad? I will be starting a project next week in a bacterial pathogenesis lab and I am not too sure what to expect. Any cool experiences? Advice for a newcomer?
02:30 PM on 04/26/12 
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richter915
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Male - 28 Years Old
I did research as an undergrad and i'm currently in the PhD portion of my MD-PhD degree. I loved undergrad research but it was definitely intimidating at the time. My advice to you is to try and attend lab meetings (even if your PI doesn't seem to care if you're there or not). Also try and get into the lab during the summer...that's really the time where lab members can focus on you and you can focus on the lab since you likely won't have classes. There're tonssss of scholarships available for undergrad summer work.

Also, get as involved in the literature as possible. Really read the scientific papers not only from your lab but also in the field. Feel free to ask grad students/post docs in the lab if there's anything you should read up on.

TAKE NOTES. you're a newbie, any technique that you learn just write it down. Writing it down will help you remember. I also advice the undergrads in the lab to literally talk out the technique as they do it. It works. If you don't get something, ask someone and google it.

set up a schedule that you can stick to. Don't give more hours than you can handle because your PI will likely hold you to it at the worst of times (finals, GRE/MCAT time, etc..)

If you need help with anything feel free to ask, I work in neuro but I have knowledge of genetics, infectious disease, microbio, etc.
01:09 AM on 04/27/12 
#3
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versus_god
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Female - 23 Years Old
I did research as an undergrad and i'm currently in the PhD portion of my MD-PhD degree. I loved undergrad research but it was definitely intimidating at the time. My advice to you is to try and attend lab meetings (even if your PI doesn't seem to care if you're there or not). Also try and get into the lab during the summer...that's really the time where lab members can focus on you and you can focus on the lab since you likely won't have classes. There're tonssss of scholarships available for undergrad summer work.

Also, get as involved in the literature as possible. Really read the scientific papers not only from your lab but also in the field. Feel free to ask grad students/post docs in the lab if there's anything you should read up on.

TAKE NOTES. you're a newbie, any technique that you learn just write it down. Writing it down will help you remember. I also advice the undergrads in the lab to literally talk out the technique as they do it. It works. If you don't get something, ask someone and google it.

set up a schedule that you can stick to. Don't give more hours than you can handle because your PI will likely hold you to it at the worst of times (finals, GRE/MCAT time, etc..)

If you need help with anything feel free to ask, I work in neuro but I have knowledge of genetics, infectious disease, microbio, etc.

Hey, thanks! This is the best response I could have hoped to see. Going to be working there over the summer and hopefully over my last two semesters, definitely going to keep this in mind.

The thing that makes me most nervous right now is how informal the set-up is. Don't have a schedule or plan completely solidified yet, I'm expected to stop by and poke around at my convenience. I feel weird popping in unannounced and bugging grad students, but I guess that's part of the fun. I'm pumped to get my start in the lab by doing work that really interests me.
10:32 AM on 04/29/12 
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EnZo
mas o menos
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Wisconsin
Male - 23 Years Old
I just applied for a 2 year position on the 23rd, and thought the interview went really well. I know they had to interview a candidate on friday, but how long did you guys wait to hear back? It's bugging the shit out of me
11:34 AM on 05/04/12 
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Jumpoff
Muckduck
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East Lansing
Male - 22 Years Old
I'm currently doing research in protein folding. Will be continuing it this summer. Honestly, I'm a physics major with no biology experience nor programming experience and that makes up the entirety of what we do in this lab (its a computer biophysics lab), so there has been a huge learning curve... but it has been a great experience so far. To my knowledge, all professors who take on undergrads for research understand they won't really know as much as their grad students, and in fact most of what you accomplish in your lab in your first semester can probably be done by the professor in less than a week, so they won't expect a crazy amount from you, as long as you're trying. If your professor actually gives you a specific project to work on, just don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Best tips are exactly what that guy said above though, not much I can add to it.
09:34 PM on 05/24/12 
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richter915
@Richter915
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Male - 28 Years Old
I'm currently doing research in protein folding. Will be continuing it this summer. Honestly, I'm a physics major with no biology experience nor programming experience and that makes up the entirety of what we do in this lab (its a computer biophysics lab), so there has been a huge learning curve... but it has been a great experience so far. To my knowledge, all professors who take on undergrads for research understand they won't really know as much as their grad students, and in fact most of what you accomplish in your lab in your first semester can probably be done by the professor in less than a week, so they won't expect a crazy amount from you, as long as you're trying. If your professor actually gives you a specific project to work on, just don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Best tips are exactly what that guy said above though, not much I can add to it.
mind sharing what lab you're in or what your focus is in? I'm in neuro but I work heavily in biophysics (electrophysiology specifically)...I have done some work using molecular modeling programs (gromacs, amber, CHARMm) and some structure programs (PyMol, Coot).
12:17 PM on 05/25/12 
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Jumpoff
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East Lansing
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mind sharing what lab you're in or what your focus is in? I'm in neuro but I work heavily in biophysics (electrophysiology specifically)...I have done some work using molecular modeling programs (gromacs, amber, CHARMm) and some structure programs (PyMol, Coot).

My research so far has been focused on studying the effect of mutating the WW-Domain, specifically Fip-35, and seeing how the native state populations change due to the mutation. Also looking to see how the change in accessible surface area due to the mutation affects the native state populations. So far the main programs I've used have been Gromacs and just basic python coding. My favorite part so far has been the distributed computing actually. Temple got some grants somewhat recently and we now have this huge computing cluster that makes the simulations finish infinitely faster than they would have without it. Hopefully this summer I'll be building markov state models and (maybe) getting to use the Folding@Home servers
01:45 PM on 05/25/12 
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richter915
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My research so far has been focused on studying the effect of mutating the WW-Domain, specifically Fip-35, and seeing how the native state populations change due to the mutation. Also looking to see how the change in accessible surface area due to the mutation affects the native state populations. So far the main programs I've used have been Gromacs and just basic python coding. My favorite part so far has been the distributed computing actually. Temple got some grants somewhat recently and we now have this huge computing cluster that makes the simulations finish infinitely faster than they would have without it. Hopefully this summer I'll be building markov state models and (maybe) getting to use the Folding@Home servers
Sounds awesome. I actually worked with a guy from FSU that's now doing a second postdoc at Temple in computational chemistry. It's a great field right now and it's super hot so if I were in your shoes, I would stick with this. My boss hates that I do this stuff so I gotta learn a lot of it on my own at home and stuff.
08:47 AM on 05/26/12 
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Jumpoff
Muckduck
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East Lansing
Male - 22 Years Old
Sounds awesome. I actually worked with a guy from FSU that's now doing a second postdoc at Temple in computational chemistry. It's a great field right now and it's super hot so if I were in your shoes, I would stick with this. My boss hates that I do this stuff so I gotta learn a lot of it on my own at home and stuff.

Who's the guy from FSU? Just curious. My PI is from Stanford, but the department isn't that huge
03:25 PM on 05/26/12 
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hypa_dude
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Memphis, TN
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I just finished my Ph.D. in neuroscience. My research project took roughly 4 years to complete and during that time we had several undergraduate students. Most of them worked only in the summer. I also did a little research as an undergrad during my senior year. Graduate students talk alot to each other about life in the lab, so we have a pretty good idea about the range of experiences and environments in labs. Enough with my qualifications.

Every student and every P.I. is different. It is absolutely imperative that you like your P.I. and labmates if you want a chance at making a significant contribution. If you are an independent thinker and self-relient, you do not want a controlling P.I. and vice versa.

The first and most challenging step is finding and defining your niche. For example, if you were interested in apoptosis, you have to compete with approximately 5,000 apoptosis papers that come out each year. The only way to fit into the very competitive biomedical research field is to read lots and lots of papers and narrow your focus. As an undergraduate with limited time, it is very difficult to do this unless there is an ongoing project with room for more hands. Also keep in mind that ambition in research is not always a good thing, because advanced techniques and innovative tools are very time-consuming to learn and experiments require lots of repition and persistence to be publishable. The single most distinguinshing characteristic of successful biomedical researchers is persistence.

I know this sounds very negative, but I can say without hesitation that you do not want to learn the hard facts first hand, It is expensive and disheartening. Most of our undergrads ending up doing technician-like work, analyzing electrophysiology data, or doing very short, repetitive behavioral experiments. There is absolutely no problem with this, especially if you want the experience for your resume and/or a third or fourth authorship on a paper.
12:59 AM on 05/28/12 
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bduke13
is looking for that clearer water
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Baltimore
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I've done undergrad research on the limitations of financial models and how the mathematics and statistics principles used in said models are inherently flawed. I've never worked in a research lab or anything like a lot of you have. I worked one on one with a professor during the summer and fall semester and I got credits for it. It has been a very good experience and I would recommend it to anyone
08:21 AM on 06/01/12 
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richter915
@Richter915
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Male - 28 Years Old
I just finished my Ph.D. in neuroscience. My research project took roughly 4 years to complete and during that time we had several undergraduate students. Most of them worked only in the summer. I also did a little research as an undergrad during my senior year. Graduate students talk alot to each other about life in the lab, so we have a pretty good idea about the range of experiences and environments in labs. Enough with my qualifications.

Every student and every P.I. is different. It is absolutely imperative that you like your P.I. and labmates if you want a chance at making a significant contribution. If you are an independent thinker and self-relient, you do not want a controlling P.I. and vice versa.

The first and most challenging step is finding and defining your niche. For example, if you were interested in apoptosis, you have to compete with approximately 5,000 apoptosis papers that come out each year. The only way to fit into the very competitive biomedical research field is to read lots and lots of papers and narrow your focus. As an undergraduate with limited time, it is very difficult to do this unless there is an ongoing project with room for more hands. Also keep in mind that ambition in research is not always a good thing, because advanced techniques and innovative tools are very time-consuming to learn and experiments require lots of repition and persistence to be publishable. The single most distinguinshing characteristic of successful biomedical researchers is persistence.

I know this sounds very negative, but I can say without hesitation that you do not want to learn the hard facts first hand, It is expensive and disheartening. Most of our undergrads ending up doing technician-like work, analyzing electrophysiology data, or doing very short, repetitive behavioral experiments. There is absolutely no problem with this, especially if you want the experience for your resume and/or a third or fourth authorship on a paper.
haha I would never let an undergrad quantify my ephys data. Do not trust them.
10:55 PM on 06/01/12 
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hypa_dude
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Memphis, TN
Male - 30 Years Old
haha I would never let an undergrad quantify my ephys data. Do not trust them.

I only really did it so they weren't looking over my shoulder and asking questions in the middle of my gigaseal forming. I almost always had to redo it. Although some things, like marking 4 hours of extracellular spike data . . . they were good for that. And making solutions.
12:32 PM on 08/28/12 
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falko
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Belgium
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Research is like War: Hours of tedium, punctuated by moments of terror.

Advice: Accept that you will fail. Eventually something will go wrong. Just make peace with this fact and you will be free of all the self-doubt, fear and feelings of hopelessness.

Two more things:1) if you aren't making mistakes, then you are not working on hard enough problems. 2) If research was meant to be easy, someone already would have done what you are trying. If ist not difficult then you are on the wrong track.

Good Luck



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