How to Secure a Research Position as a Pre-Medical Student

Many medical schools value research experiences, but it can be confusing and frustrating when you try to secure a research position as an undergrad. Here are some tips that can help you spot an opportunity and secure a position:

1. Find an area you are interested in.

Learned something in class that sparked your interest? Read around that and see if your curiosity leads you somewhere even more interesting. You are more likely to succeed in securing research studentship if you work on something that you are genuinely interested in. Find an area that interests you will not only help you get your feet in research, but also help you down the road in generating meaningful results.

2. Make use of faculty directories.

Department webpages can serve as a good starting point of your search. Look for faculty members who have an active research lab and are actively publishing – they are the ones who are more likely to take in undergraduate trainees. Faculty directories also list research interests of their members, which can help you narrow down your search.

3. Don’t be afraid to cold email.

If you don’t try, you won’t succeed. Cold emailing is not equal to mass emailing – the later will likely not lead you anywhere. Craft out emails that are specific to each faculty, show interest in their research, and maybe even include some questions you may have when reading around their research topic. Send out as many as you can – remember, you only need one to say yes to secure an experience.

4. Keep your eyes open for newsletters.

Many undergraduate programs have newsletters that are sent out to their students. Don’t ignore them when they show up in your inbox. There are often many valuable opportunities included in these newsletters (e.g., summer awards, open research assistant positions). If you are proactive in looking for opportunities, they often end up coming to your doorsteps.

5. Enroll in research project courses.

Some programs have mandatory research courses, but even if yours doesn’t, nothing is stopping you from looking to enroll in one. The caveat is, however, that you often have to find your own supervisor. But fear not – many undergraduate program offices provide research resources for their students in the form of a compiled list of actively recruiting faculty members or support in contacting on-campus and off-campus research cites. Make use of these resources to find a potentially suitable faculty member to supervise your research project course!

6. Prepare well before an interview.

Congratulations! You’ve got a reply back! Now what? Well, start researching the research of your potential supervisor. Familiarize yourself with their research interests by reading their most recent publications and don’t forget the faculty directories! Don’t beat yourself down if you don’t understand the technical aspects of the papers – you are not supposed to understand everything at your level of training, instead, the most important part that most supervisors look for is genuine passion and interest in research and their area of interest. This is why tip 1 is very important – it is hard, counterproductive, and less rewarding to fake an interest than finding something you truly care about.

Interested in more free resources regarding research, volunteering, and shadowing for pre-medical and medial students? Check out these blogs:
How to Ask to Shadow a Doctor (with Step-by-Step Guide)
Why You Should be Involved in Research
How to Get the Most out Extracurriculars
Measurement of Research Productivity
The Research Problem for Medical Students

Book your appointment with a medical student consultant for one-on-one advice today!