Summer’s wrapping up, and school’s coming back into session. Considering this, I decided to reflect back upon my summer and offer advice to students who may be reading this who are also interested in pursuing the opportunities that I did.
So what did I do? Well, over the past 8 weeks, I have been conducting research. More specifically, I have been involved in the Institute on Neuroscience (or ION for short) program, where 12 students were selected and assigned to various labs across Georgia University (such as Georgia State, Emory, etc.) I really loved this program as it was my first experience doing research in a “sciencey” (for lack of a better word) lab while working one-on-one with a daily mentor and a professor. However, I’ve been research on my own for several years now, albeit independently and from home.
Enough about me - what about you? If you’re a student who’s aspiring to do research, but are struggling to find out how, don’t worry! It just takes a little bit of work and some patience to get some research experience over the summer yourself. If you want to get a research experience, there’s two ways of going about it - going through a structured summer program or trying to cold email professors yourself.
Let’s start with the first of those two options - finding an established summer program. To do this, I’d start by looking through the websites of your local universities to see if they offer any programs for high school students. After doing this, and if you’re willing to travel farther away, simply googling “high school research opportunities” will yield some established summer programs. Be warned. However, that most of these programs are highly competitive so keep your expectations in check. In my case, I applied to many research programs (and was accepted into a couple) of programs before I finally chose to participate in ION.
Another option is to find research opportunities yourself, without an established program. Although this is doable, it will require some forethought and some patience on your part. Really the main way to go about this is to find a local university, and then put together a whole list of professors that study in the field that you’re interested in. Then, take some time to read through their research, browse through their publications to determine the nature of their research. You then want to email all the professors that pique your interest, typically referencing their research and your interest to conduct research in their lab. If you’re lucky, one of your first 5 professors will reply. More often than not, however, you’ll need to email dozens before you get a response. But that’s all right! You just need one to accept to get started on your summer research opportunity.
In the end, research is a great way to spend your summer! Keep in mind though, you don’t need an “official research program” to do research. It’s ultimately in your hands what you study and research, and you don’t always need a lab to do that. For example, I’ve been doing research for several years now, and it wasn’t until this year that I officially worked in a lab. With that, good luck to you fellow researchers and I’m sure I’ll be reading your publications and watching your presentations soon enough!