Are you stressed out that you don’t have any research yet as a pre-med?
I remember being really overwhelmed trying to get research experience as an undergraduate student.
Don’t freak out if you’re only a freshman/sophomore and haven’t gotten any yet! That’s okay!
First, I want to cover some FAQs I receive about research before we dive into the five ways to get research as a pre-med student.
- “Do I need to do research as a pre-med student?”
I would suggest that all pre-med students be involved in research in some capacity, whether it is undergrad or during a gap year!
- Is it required to do research to get into medical school?
No. However, do most pre-meds applying to medical school have research on their application? Yes. Do not let the lack of research on your application be the thing that stops you from getting into medical school!
- Does the type of research matter?
No. The type of research you do does not matter… it could be in the field of biology, psychology, chemistry, physics, etc. It could be bench lab research or clinical research. The most important part is that you are involved in the research project and able to explain it in your application and interviews. Medical schools want to see that the research you are doing is helping develop your analytical skills that you will use as a physician one day.
Now that we have covered the frequently asked questions about research as a pre-med student, let’s dive into 5 ways you can secure research opportunities!
1. Find the research lab’s website and send an email to the professor stating that you’re interested in their lab
Sending emails to a professor that you have never met is probably not something that you would do normally.
When people told me to do this, I did not know whether to trust them or not.
However, this is an EXTREMELY common way to get research as an undergraduate student.
Professors understand that there are lots of pre-med students at their university who need research experience.
The first step would be to check out their website and read some of their recent publications on PubMed. Then, send an email to the professor introducing yourself:
Dear Prof X,
My name is Kelly and I’m a sophomore at UCLA majoring in Physiology and a pre-med student. I found your website/heard about your lab from X person and I am interested in the research that you do on migraines. I read some of your recent publications about migraines and found XYZ extremely interesting. I was wondering if you had any research opportunities or lab positions available. I have attached my resume to this email. (In your resume, include ANY research experience you have, even if it’s just from high school)
You might need to email multiple labs in order to get a response. And that’s totally okay, don’t give up!
2. Utilize pre-meds who are older than you for connections
I asked pre-meds who were older than me what research they were involved in.
I was in a sorority at UCLA as well as other clubs where there were juniors and seniors who were pre-med students who belonged to a lab.
I asked them if they had any openings, or even how they got their research, and that was a great way to network!
3. Check out your university’s clubs or research minors that can set you up with research opportunities!
Lots of universities have clubs that are specifically tied with research opportunities.
I know at UCLA there was a club that focused on stroke research at the nearby hospital that let you volunteer there and do research.
Another awesome opportunity that UCLA had that I am sure lots of other universities also have was a biomedical research minor.
The minor literally connected you to a research lab that you could work at and then earn grades through research papers and assignments!
I never did this minor because I had already found research ahead of time, but this is something I definitely recommend pre-meds check out.
4. Utilize your TAs!
Pretty much every science TA at a university is involved in some sort of research lab because they are working on their master’s or PhD.
TAs who are teaching general biology classes, or even upper division biology classes, will be in a research lab that might be more applicable to pre-med students.
The first thing I would do is go to office hours frequently to get to know them so that you can be on a first-name basis with them.
Once you have established a relationship, towards the end of the semester you could send them an email or ask them in person if they are in a lab or know of any labs with any openings.
5. Contact a physician to see if they have any opportunities
Another great and easy way to get involved in research is through a physician. Most physicians working at large academic hospitals are involved in research in some capacity.
One thing that you can help with as a pre-med student would be data collection or assisting with chart reviews. I would suggest trying to email physicians or even ask medical students if they know of any research projects involving review articles or clinical trials that you could help with.
Here’s the bottom line…
Finding research as a pre-med is difficult and does take some perseverance. I hope that these tips were helpful and that you are able to find a great research opportunity with them.
If you liked the tips that I provided, feel free to follow me on Instagram at @heykellyellen. I post premed tips there daily and show my followers what life is like as a medical student. I also have a blog where I blog about premed and college topics as well!
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