3 answers

What are some key tips for connecting with faculty within your major so that you can eventually do research with someone?

Asked Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I am currently a freshman in psychology and neuroscience, but I'd like to start getting to know my professors now so that I have a solid network when it comes time to get some research experience. What are some key ways to connect with faculty, and how do you approach the process of finding someone to do research with? #psychology #research #undergraduate #neuroscience #professors

3 answers

Daniela’s Answer

Updated State of Goiás, State of Goiás, Brazil

Hi Alexandra,

If you are making first contact with a particular faculty member, you could do this by:

  • stopping by his/her office for a chat (ask - Is now is a good time?) and/or to request an appointment to discuss your request at a later time
  • call to book an appointment to discuss your request
  • send an email message to the individual about your interest in an RA position.

Offer information regarding your background and interests. For example:

  • reasons for wanting to gain research experience
  • the program that you are enrolled in (e.g., General versus Honours, BA versus BSc, Coop versus Regular, etc.) year of study
  • cumulative overall and psychology average (highlight improvement if applicable)
  • grades for research methods and statistics courses
  • educational and career goals
  • volunteer/work experience
  • why you are interested in working in that particular individual's lab e.g.,
  • did you take a course with him/her previously?
  • have you read articles that he/she wrote?
  • does his/her interests relate to your interests for studies at the graduate level and/or future employment?
  • were you referred by someone and why?
  • what type of position are you seeking e.g., volunteer for academic credit, volunteer for no academic credit, part-time or full-time paid research assistant (RA) position. If requesting a paid RA position but would accept a volunteer position if necessary, include that information.

In: https://uwaterloo.ca/psychology/current-undergraduate-students/experience-opportunities/research-experience/how-approach-faculty-members-about-research-assistant

I hope this tips can help you. Best of luck!

Wow, this is a lot of good info to come prepared with. Thank you so much!

Linda Ann’s Answer


Hi Alexandra, WOW....it's great that you are thinking ahead about gaining research experience. I'm operating under the assumption that your long-term goals include graduate school in psychology. Research experience will definitely help you with this goal achievement.

Since you are a freshman, you probably don't yet have a sufficient number of courses in psychology (unless you took courses while you were in high school) to help guide you with the type of research that you might be interested in, other than neuroscience. Identify the professors at your university who are engaged in the kind of research that resonates with you; you can do that research by going to the Psychology Department's webpage and reviewing the narratives that are posted there about each faculty member.

Then, have a conversation with your academic advisor, who hopefully is a psychology faculty member, to bounce some of your ideas off of her or him. That is, identify specifically the faculty members with whom you think you would enjoy working because of the research they are engaged in. Ask your advisor for feedback on your ideas. Ask your advisor if s/he would be willing to introduce you to this faculty member....or at least make a phone call or email on your behalf. I suggest this, as I know that "cold calling" someone you haven't yet met can be intimidating. Hopefully, your academic advisor will set the stage for you for having this conversation with several faculty members at your institution.

When you are ready to have that conversation with a faculty member whose lab you would like to work in, be sure that you have questions prepared in advance for her/him. Having those questions will demonstrate to the professor that you are serious about your desire to volunteer in their lab. Be prepared to describe to that professor what your interests are currently and your long term career goals.

Volunteering in someone's research laboratory provides invaluable experience to undergraduates. It's not unusual for that volunteer experience to turn into a paid, part-time job while you are in school.

I wish you the best. GOOD LUCK.

Thank you so much!

Ashley’s Answer

Updated Los Angeles, California

One of the key tips is stopping by their office hours and asking about the research their doing and tell them you are interested in it . Then asking them what are following steps you can do to be part of their research. Then usually if they don't have any room in their research they can direct you to a professor that does need help for their research.

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