5: How to be a Researcher as an Undergrad


As an intern at the Krebsbach Lab, I found that the more I knew, the more my responsibilities grew. That unintentionally catchy jingle reflects my experience learning to be autonomous in a lab. Here are my four tips for learning to be autonomous:

  1. Be present: More often than not, your lab will expect you to take notes. While not everyone in the lab will be the best teacher, it’s important to take notes on what you think is important (i.e. what would you need to know if you were to do this by yourself?).
  2. Be eager: Undergrads are underrated, often because we’re underestimated. By being eager to learn and do in a lab (or anywhere, really), I was awarded the privilege of doing many of my lab’s experiments.
  3. Be flexible: Research is a bit different from other fields in that it sometimes requires us to be in lab at unusual times. But beyond being flexible with timing, researchers often have to be flexible in collaborating with others with whom it might be difficult to work. Learning to be more flexible will show your lab your dedication to the research.
  4. Be willing to learn:  Research is about failing more often than succeeding. But failing is purposeless if you don’t learn from it; don’t let your disappointment with failure cloud the lessons you can learn from it.

These are four tips I followed in learning to be autonomous in my lab. These all showed my dedication to being a part of the team, which is important because it builds trust. Once you’ve established that trust, then you’re on your way to becoming autonomous.

Thank you for reading.

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