Undergraduate Research Advice for BMEs at UVA
Research is performed on a paid, for-credit or volunteer basis, both during the summer and academic year. Some students work in the same lab for several semesters or years. Other students try research and move on.
Not getting started early enough is the #1 biggest regret of graduating students at exit interview time in fourth year - even for those students who moved on to internships, entrepreneurship, policy, public health, or premed.
Don't wait for labs to contact you.
Not going to happen. And don't expect there to be a magic list of current opportunities. It doesn't exist. That said, yes, labs do occasionally send out "help wanted" ads through the email@example.com mailing list. But don't sit around waiting on those emails. The reality is that you need to do some leg work.
The first thing you need is a viable narrative.
Why are you contacting THAT specific lab? Just a sentence or two. Don't spend hours on this. But do some research. Review the lab's website. Do you have any mentored research or industry experience that is relevant?
If not, reflect on what you like to do. What do you get absorbed in? What have you trained to do? You can often parlay non-science skills and interests into a "viable narrative." Come to BME Cookie Hour and chat with BME graduate students about what they like to do, how got started, and what they do now. BME Cookie Hour is 3:00p - 3:15p every Wednesday in the MR5 second floor atrium.
You also need resilience.
The following scenario is not unusual: You took the time to research a lab, you're really psyched about it, and the lab is not looking for students, or they just ignore your email. The next step? Follow up and simultaneously move on.
Don't limit yourself to BME labs.
There are 300+ BME Majors and 26 BME Labs. You get the picture. Many BMEs work in labs outside the department. It helps that we are a 30-second walk from all the research labs in the UVA School of Medicine.
Just try! Try something!
Graduating students often reflect that they really sync with their career goals in third year. In other words, you're not alone. But it's no excuse for not trying. Try talking to your instructors and TAs after class. Try talking to your advisor about more than which class to take. Try contacting a lab (with a viable narrative). Try emailing a faculty member in the School of Medicine. Come to Cookie Hour. Talking to people is something that you can do, even if you don't have time to volunteer in a lab this semester.