A Gator’s Guide To: Getting a Research Position

BY ANISHA SARIPALLI 

In college, lots of extracurricular activities are available to students. One of these activities includes participating in research. If you don’t know how to ask for a research position, here’s a four step guide to getting one.

1.Contact the Center of Undergraduate Research: CUR is a great tool with peer advisors that will help you find ongoing research projects and help you contact Principal Investigators (PIs). CUR has walk-in hours on Monday to Friday from 9:35 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. in 202 Newell Hall. If you ask, the advisors might even proofread your email draft to a PI during those hours, which provides valuable insight. For more information, you can visit the CUR website: www.cur.aa.ufl.edu

2. Know what type of research interests you: When most students think of research, they immediately think of STEM and chemists that pipette solutions while wearing lab coats. On the contrary, you can find research present in all fields, many of which don’t include lab work. As of 2017, there are 10,750 active research projects at UF spanning fields such as marketing, music, and pharmacology. Choosing research you enjoy will enhance your studies outside the classroom.

3. Contact a PI: Once you’ve decided which labs interest you, it’s time to send the PI an email. Here are some tips for crafting the perfect email:

  • Come up with a eye-catching subject line—you want your email to stand out in the PI’s inbox.
  • Introduce yourself. Explain how your background and major/interests draw you to that particular field of research. 
  • Tell them why you’re interested in their research. Show that you read a paper that was published by the researcher. As an undergraduate, focus on the abstract, methods, and conclusion. 
  • Customize your email per researcher. The PIs want to know that you are not sending a mass email in order to obtain any research position. 
  • Tailor your resume. Resumes can be a little daunting, especially since many younger students don’t have prior research experience or leadership roles. Sophomores and freshmen can use organizations and leadership positions from high school that relate to the field of research in their resume. You can also include any lab skills that you’ve gained from courses in the skill section of the resume (if applicable). Remember to include relevant coursework to emphasize experience that transfers to the research position.
  • When you’ve included all the necessary information in the email, send it! Don’t forget to attach your resume and proofread your email.

4. Follow up: Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get an immediate response. If you still haven’t received a reply after two weeks, send a follow-up email, and don’t forget to forward the initial email with it. Many PIs get hundreds of emails a day, so it is possible that they overlooked your email due to an inundated inbox. Sending a follow-up email shows your commitment to getting a research position. Sometimes PIs intentionally ignore the email because they want you to send a follow-up email, which helps them determine who is truly interested.

Happy researching!

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