I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my undergrad. But I can confidently say that not taking advantage of the research opportunities on campus is not one of them. I started out by volunteering in a research lab in the EEB department. Once a week, I’d go in and help a graduate student or my supervisor with a project. The experience taught me discipline and patience and the relationships I built prompted me to dig deeper into research.
I feel that the reason many students don’t get involved in research is because they feel that there are only a few options. That couldn’t be further from the truth! There really is something for everyone.
Volunteering is probably the easiest way to get into research, especially as a first-year. Many professors on campus are more than happy to take on volunteers. This gets your foot in the door and you may even secure a paid position with that professor in the future. All you have to do is look up professors at UofT whose research interests you. Checking out departmental faculty profiles is generally what I do. They give a great summary about the professor’s interests, his/her past research projects, and his/her contact information. Then send them a polite cover letter expressing your enthusiasm and your resume. Try to personalize each email instead of sending mass emails. Just keep trying and eventually you’ll hear a positive response!
The Work-Study Program at UofT is a program that allows students on campus to “work while they study.” These positions tend to be on or near campus. Because of this, they are often more flexible than standard jobs so they are great for students. Professors may post research positions as part of the Work-Study Program. The program does NOT require students to be OSAP eligible and is open to undergraduate students taking 2.0 or more credits during the academic year and graduate students. Applications tend to be due in early September so if you’re interested make sure you look into it early next year. Check out the link for more information: http://www.careers.utoronto.ca/jobsearch/workstudy.aspx
You can complete a research course (such as a 299, a 399, or a 499) in upper years. Upper year research courses are available for multiple disciplines, including art, history, computer sciences, and the natural sciences. Research courses allow you to earn a full-year credit while conducting research with a professor on campus. It’s a great way to get some solid research experience in a variety of fields very early so definitely look into it. Here’s the link to the ROP and 399 website: http://www.artsci.utoronto.ca/current/course.
Researching in a lab has become such an important part of my life. I never knew research could be this tedious, time-consuming, and frustrating. But I think my research experiences have made me a better problem solver, a stronger critical thinker, and a faster learner. I’m sure that these are skills I can apply to my academic, professional, and personal life. I think that participating in academic research is something that every student in any field should attempt to get involved in. I hope you consider joining UofT’s research scene!
Till next week,