IB Alumni Mentoring Program
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
- Scroll to the bottom of the page: https://sib.illinois.edu/research/undergraduate
Peruse your options
- IB Research Options: https://sib.illinois.edu/research/undergraduate
- MCB: https://mcb.illinois.edu/undergrad/opportunities/research/
- NRES: https://nres.illinois.edu/undergraduate/research
- Crop Sciences: https://cropsciences.illinois.edu/current/research-opportunities/
- Research Park: http://www.researchpark.illinois.edu
- IGB: https://www.igb.illinois.edu
- Prairie Research Institute: http://www.inrs.illinois.edu
- Illinois Natural History Survey: http://www.inhs.illinois.edu
- Illinois State Geological Survey: http://www.isgs.illinois.edu
- Illinois State Water Survey: http://www.isws.illinois.edu
- Illinois Sustainable Technology Center: https://www.istc.illinois.edu
- Industry - for example internships at Illumina conducting biotech research
- Clinical Research
- You may also find research positions on the Virtual Job Board hosted by the Office of Student Financial Aid: https://www.osfa.illinois.edu/types-of-aid/virtual-job-board
- And many more!
Review faculty profiles
- IB Faculty: https://sib.illinois.edu/people/faculty_390_490
- MCB Faculty: http://mcb.illinois.edu/faculty/by_research
- NRES Faculty: https://nres.illinois.edu/research
- Crop Sciences Faculty: https://cropsciences.illinois.edu/people/research-areas/
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
- Integrative Biology: https://sib.illinois.edu/undergraduate/support
- Office of Undergraduate Research: https://undergradresearch.illinois.edu/students/funding.html
- Research Experience for Undergraduates: (REU) https://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/
- Research Courses: https://sib.illinois.edu/undergraduate/research_courses
- Lab Courses
- There are also several courses that include research projects!
Graduating with Distinction
- Graduation with Distinction: https://sib.illinois.edu/undergraduate/distinction
Research Certificate Program
- From the Office of Undergraduate Research: https://undergradresearch.illinois.edu/students/research-certificate.html
Working with non-IB faculty
- You can still get IB credit! Read all about the process here: https://sib.illinois.edu/research/non_sib
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?
• 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: email@example.com
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