How to Get Involved in Research

Whenever I tell any of my friends or peers that I am working in a lab, the first question they ask is how I got a position. It seems that for people who aren’t a part of any of the internships that CSEP offers have a really hard time finding a lab. However, I have helped a handful of my friends find research positions this past year and I thought that if anyone scrolling through this website some help finding a lab, I should offer my experience in getting myself and others involved in research.

I was incredibly fortunate to have been thrust into the research world before I even started classes at UCSB. During the end of my senior year, I had applied for SIMS, the summer institute of math and science, (another wonderful program run by CSEP) and by some stroke of luck I was accepted. After the crazy two weeks of SIMS, I couldn’t help but be upset that my time in the lab was over. Not knowing whether it was appropriate or not, two weeks after SIMS had ended, I messaged the graduate student who was my mentor and asked him if I could continue helping him in the lab. Again, by some stroke of luck, Eric Terry of the Rothman and Meinhart labs accepted me and I began working in the lab during any free time that I had. By my winter and spring quarter, I was working a solid 15 hours a week in the lab as well as being a full time student, which I found to be a bit too much to juggle with all of my challenging classes. Then another wonderful opportunity arose and I was accepted into the EUREKA program where I was free to do nothing but research all day long! After this amazing program is over, I plan on working again in the lab during school, just maybe not as many hours per week.

There are a great deal of people who are equally as interested in research, but did not find themselves in such amazing research programs as I did. A lot of people think it’s impossible to get a research position without CSEP, but to them I say “you are dead wrong!”. I’ve been in a member of a sorority for the past year and since joining I have gotten three of my sisters into labs and I am very confident to say that there are tons of opportunities for lab positions even if you have no prior lab experience! The first thing that I did to help my friends get research positions was to help them make a resume and cover letter. Before you even think of starting of getting into a lab, you must prepare yourself by having a CV, resume, and cover letter handy in case you’re asked for one. Now some of my friends were lucky to have been taking classes from a professor that they wanted to work for. This is probably the easiest way to get a position because office hours is the perfect way to introduce yourself to a PI and let him know personally that you are interested in his work. While one of my friends got into a lab this way, another one simply emailed a ton of graduate students and post docs on campus that she found through Google. Even though this seems like a wasted effort, adding a couple sentences of how you are passionate about their specific project, which you can find by googling the lab, can get a response out of them, which is exactly what happened for my friend.

Hopefully this has given some hope to any of you who are not apart of some kind of research program and feared that getting a lab position was far out of their reach. Whether you are lucky enough to be guided into research or you go looking for it yourself on the internet, UCSB is such an amazing research school with endless opportunities and it would be a shame if every student on campus didn’t take advantage of it!

Emilie Aghajani

Emilie Aghajani is going into her second year at UCSB as a pre-biology student. She has been working with C. Elegans and microfluidics in the Meinhart and Rothman labs here on campus.