Undergraduate Research

There are many programs across the nation offering summer research experience for undergraduates. There are possibilities across all disciplines, and costs of travel, housing, food are cover, along with a stipend (~$2,000–$5,000).

To apply find the website of the program of interest (many listed below), and follow their directions. Most programs require a letter of intent describing your interest in the program and future plans

(Hint: many won’t consider you if you say you want to be a Dr., as these are to encourage students to enter research, so try keep an open mind and offer Graduate School as a future option. However there are some programs specifically directed towards pre-meds.)

You will likely need to find 2-3 references willing to write a letter.

You will also likely need to provide your academic transcripts from your undergraduate efforts.

(Hint: most of the places won’t care what you did in High School, or church related activities. Keep it focused on leadership and scholarship activities)

Due to the competitive nature of Summer Undergraduate Research Program, the following suggestions should be taken into consideration when preparing an application; however adhering to these recommendations does not guarantee acceptance into the program.

  1. Give yourself adequate time to complete the application. Responses to open-ended questions should have a thoughtful, detailed response that shows the applicant is: 1) interested in gaining research experience in a specific area, e.g. molecular or cellular biology, public health, etc., 2) concerned about a particular technology or methodology, e.g., cell culture, structural analyses or flow cytometry or specific biological model system, e.g., C. elegans or Drosophila, and 3) has reviewed your school of interest’s faculty pages to learn more about the investigators and the types of research conducted. Students should proofread their application thoroughly for accuracy and completeness before submitting.
  2. Ask a friend(s), professor(s), and/or faculty advisor(s) to review your statement of research interests and career goals. When writing a personal statement, the author should respond to the following key points:
    1. For what are you applying and why?
    2. What are your educational and/or career goals?
    3. Why are you applying to the Summer Undergraduate Research Program?
    4. What qualifications do you bring?
    5. How are you prepared to make a contribution to the prospective lab and/or your own professional development? If you don’t have prior lab experience, have you held a position of responsibility or previously worked in a team setting that would lend itself well to this program?
    6. How will this opportunity further your educational/career goals?
  3. Request an informative letter(s) of recommendation. An informative letter will highlight the courses you have taken, your quality as a student compared to other students, accomplishments achieved, and how this program will further your educational/career goals. When requesting a letter of recommendation, the applicant should:
    1. Choose your references wisely – a letter of recommendation from an individual in a department or field similar to the program for which you are applying is viewed more favorably than a recommendation letter from a former employer or teacher in a non-related field.
    2. Give your references at least two weeks to submit a letter of recommendation on your behalf.
    3. Submit your letter of recommendation request in writing. Giving your references a copy of your resume and/or the following information: a) the name of the program to which you are applying and a brief description of what the program entails; b) the name of the sponsoring institution; c) a brief description of how the program fits in with your career goals; and d) a brief description of what you will contribute to the program and how you will benefit from participating. The last and possibly most important information to convey is: e) when the letter is due, to whom the letter should be addressed, and the options for submitting the letter, i.e. via email, fax, or mailing address.
    4. Send your reference a friendly reminder – preferably one week prior to the application deadline.
The last and most important gesture to consider when requesting a recommendation letter is often the most overlooked. In short; send your reference(s) a handwritten NOTE OF THANKS!