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Resources for contacting labs about undergrad research

Finding a lab

There are many excellent ways to find a lab on campus, including doing web search for topics of interests to you, keep an eye out for interesting news stories from Stanford labs, or talking to professors. You may also find it helpful to visit the following compiled resources:

Wu Tsai Neuro's directory of undergraduate neuroscience research opportunities

VPUE's directory of departments with summer undergraduate research

Creating a resume

There are many ways to write a resume, and you don't need prior research experience to put together a good resume! Think about all of the characteristics that you want to convey about yourself to a lab (e.g., organized, patient, like to learn, responsible) and include things you've done to demonstrate that. Have you worked any jobs? Volunteered? Cared for a family member? Completed a project for class? Created something for a hobby? Explore templates provided by BEAM Career Education, or download and adapt this example:

File resume_template.docx

BEAM's helpful guide can help you fine-tune your resume for maximum impact:

File 4_easy_steps_to_writing_your_resume.docx

Its helpful to ask others to edit your resume. For one-on-one help with your resume or any other career-related questions, sign up for an appointment with one of BEAM's career coaches.

Writing an introductory email

Writing an email to a lab can feel intimidating, but don't let that put you off — at the worst you'll hear back they don't have undergrad research opportunities at the moment (or get no reply), but at best it will be your first interaction with an amazing lab and research opportunity! If you're not sure where to start, check out our guidelines:

PDF icon write_an_introductory_email.pdf

It's completely acceptible to reach out to a few labs at the same time, but make sure to tailor your email slightly to each one so it's clear you're truly interested in working with them. Don't forget to include your resume!

If you don't hear back from a lab within a week, you are encouraged send them a nice follow-up note to them know you are still interested in meeting to discuss research opportunities with them. If you don't hear back after that, you can take it as a sign that the lab is too busy to accept undergraduates at the moment. The good news is, there are plenty of labs out there — Stanford has about 500 faculty doing neuroscience-related work!

Preparing for an interview

Nervous about an upcoming interview with a lab? It can help to change your mindset! If a lab member is making time to meet with you, that's a great sign — it's a signal that the lab values teaching and supporting young scientists. Labs that want to work with undergrads know that you are coming to them without much or any research experience. Instead of sweating over memorizing the details of their science, prioritze considering all the other things that a lab will need or might want from you as an undergraduate researcher - reliability, a growth mindset, trustworthiness, etc. What do you know you can bring to the lab? How might you demonstrate that? Check out our guidelines for more advice on how you can prepare:

PDF icon interview_skills.pdf

Still feeling nervous? Do what I do - fake it til you make it :)

Finding funding

There are many ways to work in a lab — during the academic year you can work for credit, if you have Federal Work Study funds these can pay for your research hours, a lab can pay you directly, or you can apply for funding. You are encouraged to discuss funding opportunities as part of your interview, or in following conversations. Neuroscience-interested students may be interested in the following programs: 

Neuroscience Undergraduate Research Opportunity (NeURO) fellowship
Bioengineering REU
Biology SURP (B-SURP)
Bio-X USRP
ChEM-H undergrad scholars
Electrical Engineering REU
Psych-Summer Research Program
SSRP/Amgen Scholars
Symbolic Systems Summer Internship Program

Or, check out the many other departments that have funding available, or apply for an individual grant.