Gaining research experience is paramount to getting hired after graduation if you wish be in the healthcare or research industry. The best way to find out what excites you about research or what type of research you want to do is to explore different opportunities and fields within research. To gain exposure, you would need some science background experience or previous research experiences. To set yourself up for success, here are some things that I did to jumpstart my journey to gaining research experiences.
Here’s how to get started:
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- Ground zero: start with your resume. Your resume shows off the laboratory skills that you know. Finding the time to polish your resume is the first step to jump start your research. This may seem pedestrian and intuitive, but taking the time to really polish your resume is one of the easiest and often overlooked step in the search process. Basic rules apply here: make sure it is formatted consistently throughout with concise descriptions of activities and experiences, free of punctuation and grammatical errors. For a research resume, list laboratory techniques that you know and any related research, science, or volunteer experiences. Try to be as comprehensive as possible since you never know what employers are looking for.
- Start at Hamilton: To get to the research position that you want, you need experience. One of those ways is to gain this research experience right on campus during the summer. I worked in my biology thesis advisor’s lab over the summer of my junior year. This set me up for my senior year when I also conducted my senior thesis research with the same professor. The time that I spent in the lab gave me good lab organizational and time management skills. These skills will serve you well in future research positions in academia or industry. In addition, I was a nurse’s assistant in the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, New York through the internship program with Hamilton. Use the resources that are readily available to you on campus. Go to the Career Center and find out what programs are available.
- Network: After my freshman year, I was not able to find a summer research position or a volunteer position in a hospital. I knew that I wanted to learn more about doctors, so I decided to see if I can get some shadowing experience. I lived at home in NYC that summer and I looked up the names of physicians at the NYU Langone Medical Center and emailed them my resume. I explained that I was pre-med and wanted to learn more about medicine and if there were any opportunities for shadowing. That summer, I shadowed a pediatric cardiologist and a urologist in the operating room and their offices. A good place to start networking is through the Career Center alumni database. I have contacted alumni in the past to ask for career advice or just to learn about different positions in the research field.
- Build up from the basics: Once you have some research experience, you can look into SURPs and REUs programs. SURPs are summer undergraduate research programs in hospitals or academic institutions that pay a stipend for students to conduct research to prepare them for a career in research and medicine. REUs, research experiences for undergraduates, are similar and funded by the National Science Foundation. Because these programs are paid, they are highly competitive. The successful applicants will demonstrate that they have previous research experience. With the research base that you build from freshman and sophomore year, you can apply to these programs. There are many other research internships programs like SURPs and REUs. Identify some of these programs and apply to them early and often they require letters of recommendation and short essays, so it is a good idea to start now.
- Get organized: I was clearly a budding project manager in my former pre-med days because I loved being organized with timelines and to-do lists. After the summer of my freshman year, I learned to be more focus and organized in my search for a summer research internship. During winter break, I searched online for summer internship programs around the country. I did an extensive Google search (where I found the SURPs, REUs, and similar programs) and compile an excel spreadsheet of all the programs that I wanted to apply to. In the excel file, I put the names of programs, their descriptions, the duration of programs, application deadlines, and any documents needed to apply. I spent time gathering all the materials and updated the spreadsheet as needed. Creating a way to keep track of the different opportunities will focus your search efforts by showing you what you have done and what needs to be done. This is one of the most valuable tool that I used to help me keep track of my progress and organize information.
Chun Yee Lau '12 began her research adventure by studying angiogenesis in tumor cells. She then moved onto clinical research studies focused on sequencing different cancers before deciding not to pursue medicine. Recently she transitioned into project management in research and is currently pursuing certification as a project management professional.