What opportunities are there for undergraduate students at Carnegie?
Undergraduate students can be involved in research in several ways.
- Undergraduate students can be research lab assistants. These are paid positions and generally involve carrying out a variety of lab chores, such as maintaining stock collections, planting and harvesting, making media and solutions and sterilizing lab equipment.
- Undergraduate students can carry out independent research projects in the lab. Staff members help students develop a research question and assist in experimental design. In the lab, students are typically supervised by either a postdoctoral scientist or a graduate student. These projects can be carried out over the course of one or more semesters/quarters and/or during summers.
- Undergraduate students can participate in the Summer Internship program.
Do I have to be a Stanford student?
No. Students from a variety of Universities and Community Colleges have worked or carried out research in Carnegie Department of Plant Biology labs.
Can I get college credit for my research in the lab?
Yes. However, you will have to speak with administrators at your home institution to find out how to do this.
How much time do I need to devote to a project?
A minimum of 8 hours per week is needed for most research projects. However, schedules are flexible and students may spend less time in lab during weeks when they are especially busy with schoolwork, for instance exams and more time in other weeks.
A single semester/ quarter may be enough time to carry out some research projects. Other projects may continue for multiple semesters/ quarters or over the summer. This is in large part determined by the student together with his/her supervisor.
Can I be paid to carry out a research project?
Yes. Many staff members are funded through federal grants, for instance from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The staff member can apply to the NSF for funds to pay undergraduate researchers. However, these funds run out each year, so early applications are important.
How does carrying out a research project in Plant Biology help my career?
If you are a student who has a burning desire to understand how plants work, then this is most certainly the place for you! Carnegie DPB has extensive resources for basic research on plants and there is no limit on what you can accomplish if you have the desire.
However, students who work in labs learn a variety of skills that are useful in many different fields of work as well. Whether you plan to become a doctor, lawyer, business person, researcher or teacher, your experience in the lab will be valuable.
Many of the basic research techniques used in Carnegie DPB labs are common to all areas of biological science. Techniques that manipulate DNA, RNA or proteins fall into this category. Genetic analysis, as well, can be applied to any living organism. Learning how to search the primary literature, learning how to trouble shoot, how to interpret experimental results and how to apply the appropriate statistical tools are valuable skills that can be applied to many areas of work. Undergraduate students typically present their work as a poster or a short talk and often find themselves in the position of teaching newcomers to the lab. In the course of doing this, you will get helpful feedback from lab members and will sharpen your communication skills.
If you are interested in making basic research your career, this is an excellent way to find out if a research career is really for you. It is also a necessary aspect of your undergraduate education: graduate schools in the sciences place a premium on research experience when they evaluate undergraduate applicants.
How do I apply?
You should contact the individual staff member whose lab you are interested in. You can find summaries of staff members’ research projects here. It is probably best to contact the staff member by email although phone calls are fine as well.