Summer Research Experience

Summer Research Experience:

One of the best opportunities for research available to students is participating in an undergraduate research program.   These experiences are a gift that truly keeps on giving!   Some of the benefits include:

1.  Obviously getting to actually DO research and experiments in a REAL research lab.  If you don’t enjoy actually being in a lab and doing research you will know it after this and can cross that off your career list!  If you do enjoy it…..

2.  ….Now you have actual lab experience to put on your resume/CV.  Critical for application to graduate school.

3.  Narrowing down the type of research you are generally interested in (and what you are definitely not interested in is just as important).  Maybe the research focus of the lab you did your undergraduate research experience in wasn’t THE MOST thrilling topic for you (you still enjoyed being in the lab and doing the actual experiments)….now you KNOW THIS.  And as GI Joe always used to say “knowing is half the battle”.

4.  You will make contacts in the world of science.  You may work with other undergraduates like yourself (who you may see again during your graduate school interviews), graduate students (who can give you advice and opinions on the next steps in your career path.  they LOVE giving advice and opinions), post-docs, lab technicians and, of course, the principle investigator (PI) of the lab.  When people say “its all about who you know”….THEY MEAN IT!  [I will tell you my real life story about the “who you know” factor in my current career success in a separate discussion (and it continues to manifest itself to this day).]

5.  You get an opportunity to “test out” the research environment/culture of the place where the lab is located.   If the lab is in a university other than your own, you will see how the environment differs from your own institution (not to mention that you get the added benefit of getting to visit some other geographical location too).  Even if the lab is in your own institution you will get the feel for how the research side differs from the undergraduate classroom learning side (those lab portions of the classes you take are VERY different from the lab work done in a research lab! and please don’t put those lab classes on your resume!).   If you participate in a undergraduate experience at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) you will see how the government research environment differs from one at a university.  Which environment did you like the best?  Clearly the best way to be able to answer this question, and find the best fit for you, requires that you participate in research as an undergraduate at all three places.  You better start now!!  (More tips, strategies and advice on this to come in another discussion).

6.  Some programs pay you $$$ in the form of a stipend for the work you will do in the lab. Nuff said.


Here is a useful link for getting an undergraduate research experience at an academic institution:



Here is a useful link for getting an undergraduate research experience at NIH:

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