Why get involved in research?
If you are planning on, or even just thinking about, applying to a master’s program or any type of graduate school, then two things you will undoubtedly need are research experience and reference letters. Working in a university laboratory can provide you with both: you will gain experience in basic laboratory techniques and you will be able to meet professors who will then know you well enough to write you a reference letter, and, if the opportunity presents itself, you could be an author on a research paper.
Most undergraduate students working on research will likely be preparing cultures/samples, setting up experiments and general lab maintenance. This will give you experience with basic techniques and procedures that will prepare you in your future research endeavours.
There are several ways to get started in research during your undergraduate studies:
- Volunteer with a professor in their laboratory
- Work-study program
- Concept Science (previously known as Velocity Science)
- Honours Thesis and capstone project courses
Volunteer with a professor in their laboratory
The most common way students get research experience during their undergraduate experience is through volunteering with a professor.
How to approach your professor
- Do your homework: Do you know what your professor’s research is in? Are you interested in this area of work? Why? Professors seek students who are interested or passionate about the areas that they research in.
- Meet with them: Have you had a conversation with them in person? Do they know you and your interests? Try asking if there are any opportunities during their office hours.
- Be professional: Address them appropriately, refrain from using slang, introduce yourself (if you have never met them – and you should plan to), be concise of what you’re asking for.
Student Awards and Financial Aid offers two work-study programs with specified eligibility requirements. Students looking for a paid research position while on a school term should consider the work-study or International work-study programs, depending on what they qualify for.
Co-op (research certificate)
Students in co-op wanting to pursue research may be interested in the Co-op Research Certificate. This certificate was designed to recognize students who have multiple work terms in research-focused positions. For more information, please visit the Co-operative Education webpage.
Concept Science provides students who are interested in building a science start-up with the resources to begin developing their companies. Students, as a part of Concept Science, will have access to mentors, a wet lab, technical resources and more, to prototype their ideas.
Honours thesis and capstone project courses
Students interested in research may consider completing an undergraduate honours thesis or capstone project, if it is applicable to their respective programs. These courses take place over two terms and typically students will be paired with a faculty member. For more information on honours thesis/projects in Biology, Chemistry, Earth, Physics or Science and Business.