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How to make the most of your research experience

April 2021 | 4 mins read

By Monica Luo
Third Year | Faculty of Science, Physics

Be openminded about exploring different fields of research

Undergrad is one of the best times to explore your interests. This applies not only to choosing a major or exploring potential careers, but also to research experience. Often, we may not know exactly what we want to pursue in the future, and getting involved in different research projects across disciplines is a great way to discover where your interests lie. My advice would be to apply for any positions and opportunities that are available to you, because you never know whether a particular project may turn out to be an especially rewarding experience. Do you like fieldwork? Clinical research? Computational projects? Now is the time to find out!

Acquire the necessary skills

Certain skills can help you land a research position and facilitate the progress of your research project. For example, knowing a programming language is a skill that will come in handy for many different projects in various fields and can help make your experience smoother by giving you an edge in conquering the learning curve. Prior knowledge of statistics or other foundational concepts relating to your research project can give you more time to focus on digesting your assigned literature or getting a headstart on your project.

Understand the expectations of your lab

Research can be a big time commitment, and as an undergraduate student, I know we all have a lot on our plates! Therefore, it’s important to understand the expectations of your supervisor and openly communicate how much time you can commit to a project. This way, there will be no surprises and you can relax knowing that everyone is on the same page.

Ask questions

Don’t be afraid of asking questions! Your supervisor will know that you are an undergraduate student and won’t expect you to have the same foundation of knowledge base as a graduate student. This is the best time to ask any questions you may have about your project, the lab, and the field of research as a whole. Talk to other members in the lab and learn from their experiences. This will also help you build rapport with your supervisor and your lab colleagues and expand your professional network.

Look for opportunities to share your work

If you’ve spent a long time working on and completing a project, presenting it is a great way to share your work with others! Look for opportunities such as undergraduate research conferences and journals where you can submit your work. The Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference is one such conference where undergraduate students can apply to present their work to the UBC community. Additionally, writing a manuscript and submitting it to a journal, such as the Canadian Journal of Undergraduate Research, is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the peer-review process. If you’re working on a life sciences related research project, you can also sign up to present your project at Life Sciences Research Night.