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How to approach Professors about research opportunities?

Hello. I'm a wildlife biology major transferring to a four-year school. One of the professors does research, and after inquiring about a Special Topics in biology class, found he organizes wildlife monitoring/research with snakes, amphibians, and small mammals. While I do not need anymore credits this semester, I am hoping to still assist in the wildlife monitoring.

What is the best way to approach him? I was thinking about telling him I would be extremely interested in assisting with the wildlife monitoring even though I will not the taking the Special Topics in biology class for credit. A CV has been prepared and will be given to him to share my previous experience. Thank you for any assistance and suggestions!

#wildlife-biology #undergraduate-research-experience

Thank you comment icon Professors love students who are energetic and willing to learn. I obtained my first research position by emailing several professors who were doing research that I was interested in, and one of them responded and accepted me into the group. Visiting the professor in person is probably much better than email. You'll also have excellent chances if you choose to forego pay for the work you do. You can always work a few months then ask for some payment when you become productive if you want.Your CV will probably help, but as an undergraduate, most professors don't expect much (or any) experience. Best thing is to inform yourself about the professor's research and be able to chat about what you find most interesting/exciting about it. Good luck! Michael Tuchband, Ph.D.
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Sebastien’s Answer

Talking to a professor at the end of the class is a great way to approach a professor. But it's not always easy to find a match between a course you really like and a professor whose research you're interested in. So another way is to lookup professors from your university on the internet (you can start from the university website and browse research labs, then professors/labs usually have their own websites with a lot of information on their current work). That's what I did when I was in grad school looking for a research assistantship. I contacted a lot of professors, got a few replies, meetings and found a great RA position.


Keep in mind that these professors are usually busy and don't have a lot of time to read such emails, or they may be contacted by a lot of other students. To make sure you pop out and provide useful information, make sure to:

  • do your homework: read about the professor/lab's research work, papers, goals etc on their website (or search via Google scholar)
  • introduce yourself properly: describe your research interests, skills (like courses you are attending) and background. And attach a resume.
  • connect the dots: clearly explain why you're reaching to this professor (vs. any other one in the field) - maybe you read about a project you want to get involved in, or you found one of their papers really interesting
  • be direct: tell them what you want. For example, number of hours you can work with them, if you need a paid position or if you are ok to volunteer etc..


This may seem like a lot, but believe me this will pay off. Good luck!

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Dana’s Answer

Hi Patricia!


I love your proactiveness! In college I approached a few professors about internships or shadowing. It's a great skill to develop as it's useful throughout your career to help you advance and grow. Professors are usually very open to students who are proactive about learning more and helping out even if there is not an opportunity. In college, I would usually approach the professor by asking questions. Wanting to learn more about the class or program. Once I got him/her talking about it, I would sugue into my interest in the internship or program and ask if there are opportunities available to assist in any capacity? In your particular case you could emphasize that you're unable to take the class due to your credits so any other opportunity to learn or contribute would be great.


Good luck on your endeavors!


Dana

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