Volunteer in a Lab?

With regards to lab experience, I strongly encourage people to ask to volunteer in research laboratories. This is the best way to get to know a professor, to get lab experience, and to have people write letters of recommendation for your when you start to apply to jobs. Here is how you can go about this:

How do I find a research lab? Students must show a good deal of initiative and persistence in finding lab to volunteer in. Your prospects for getting accepted into a lab will be enhanced if you follow the tips listed below:

Do your homework. It is important to be familiar with faculty advisors’ research area before you approach them. Biology faculty members’ research websites are here: http://www1.carleton.ca/biology/facultystaff-listing/faculty/. Here the list of potential faculty mentors subdivided by area: http://www1.carleton.ca/biology/research/research-areas/. A careful review of these websites will give you an overview of the kinds of research being conducted. Also look at the websites of adjunct faculty members as they can also be honours thesis advisors:http://www1.carleton.ca/biology/facultystaff-listing/adjunct-professors/

Be flexible. Your interests are important but you will dramatically increase your chances of landing a volunteer position if you are willing to be flexible in terms of what lab you work in.

Write an informative email. Be sensitive to the fact that professors may be busy when you first approach them and include a subject heading in your email (e.g., Volunteer for X hours a week in your laboratory for the semester/year?). In your email you should briefly describe yourself, your research interests, discuss relevant courses you have taken or will take that will provide you with a strong background in this field, a brief overview of your grades to date, and ask whether they would be willing to meet with them or one of their graduate students to discuss the possibility of volunteering with them. Be sure to state the terms that you are willing to volunteer (e.g., 5 hours / week for the semester)

Go prepared. When meeting with potential mentors, make sure to bring a copy of your academic audit and come prepared with questions about their research program and how they work with volunteer students.

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