School of
Integrative Biology

IB Alumni Mentoring Program

Research

Want more information about the research application process?


Download the PDF below for questions you can ask, tips and tricks, and next steps

Open the links and resources for each of the steps in the process


Review some common research questions and answers

Peruse your options

Review faculty profiles

Review faculty websites

  • Faculty usually have their own lab webpage, with their research interests and research team.
  • If there is no link through the departmental website, do a quick Google search

Keep track of what you like

  • Quickly eliminating labs or fields you don't want to study will make the next steps a lot easier, as will keeping track of what you liked and didn't like about your top choices
  • Don't forget to save the links to the faculty websites of your top choices!

Research your top choices

  • Faculty interviews: https://sib.illinois.edu/faculty_interviews
  • Faculty websites - review what kind of research they do, what their research team specializes in, and get a feel for the "personality" of the lab
  • Lab publications - you won't understand everything, but are you excited by their work or their results? Could you see yourself contributing to a project like that?

Decide what matters to you

  • Do you want to work in the field or in a lab?
  • Are you interested in macro or micro level questions? Ecosystem or cell first?
  • Do you want to work in a big or small lab?

Ask a current student questions

  • What are their duties?
  • How do they balance their classes and lab work?
  • Do they work on independent projects?
  • Do they work with the grad students or the professor?

Craft a professional email

  • Address the professor formally, and as Dr. or Professor - e.g. "Dear Dr. Smith,"
  • Include specifics about who you are, why you want to join their lab, and what you would add to the research group
  • Reference some of the research you did - what did you like about their lab that made you reach out to them specifically?
  • TAILOR each of your emails to that specific professor's research group and interests
  • Sign the email formally, with your full name - e.g. "Sincerely, John Smith"

Focus on your strengths

  • Don't worry about not having enough lab experience - focus on the skills and experiences you do have. How could those help you to be trained in lab techniques?
  • Convey your excitement for the lab and the position, and why it's a good fit for you

Enlist a second set of eyes

Getting Funding

Getting Credit

Graduating with Distinction

Research Certificate Program

Research Skills

Working with non-IB faculty


Ask yourself questions throughout the process



Before you start

• Why are you interested in gaining research experiences?

• What skills will this add, that you don’t already have?


Finding a lab

• What do you want to be doing in a research group?

• What kind of a working environment do you want or need?


Deciding on a lab

• Why this lab?

• Why this area of science?


Applying for a lab

• What makes you excited about this lab?

• What can you bring/add to the lab?

• How does this advance your short and long term goals?


Research Logistics

• What do you think their expectations are of you, and of themselves?

• What do you want to get out of this experience? How could you make that happen?


Still feel lost? Contact Christina Swanson for an in-person meeting: sillima2@illinois.edu



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