Research. It’s a key component of preparation for grad school, med school, or industry. But how do students connect with a solid research opportunity? First, you need a school with research-active faculty and exceptional, state-of-the-art equipment—like Macalester.

“A research experience allows students to apply their learning and see firsthand how their field of study generates knowledge and tests hypotheses,” says biology professor Elizabeth Jansen. “It is essential for the student considering graduate study to know whether research suits them. For a student heading into a health profession it’s important to understand how clinical practice is completely dependent upon continued research.”

One great resource for students is Macalester’s Science and Research Office, where there are step-by-step suggestions for preparing to conduct original research. Questions to consider include:

  • Geographical restrictions?
  • Financial requirements?
  • Time available to commit to research?
  • How strong is your application? How can you deal with a weak spot in your preparation?

Research options:

  • On-campus summer research with faculty members, typically 10-week paid opportunities
  • Minnesota opportunities with organizations such as the Mayo Clinic, biomedical labs, and the Minneapolis Heart Institute
  • Government and federal agency opportunities
  • Special opportunities for Macalester students only

“I noticed that many of my fellow geology majors were doing research and I didn’t understand how or with whom,” wrote Alia Payne ’15 (Vashon Island, Wash.).  “So I asked my advisor, who gave a geology-wide presentation on how, why, and when to do research as a geology major. I applied to the Keck Geology Consortium positions and for REU’s [Research Experiences for Undergraduates] during my junior year, and was selected for a position in Peru studying the effects of climate change on glaciers.” 

“I took cell biology with Professor Devavani Chatterjea, and was briefly introduced to the immune system there,” says Charles Benck ’15 (Minnetonka, Minn.). “Professor Chatterjea encouraged me to take the Research in Immunology course. I then spent a summer doing research with her and continued the next summer with a grant from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.” 

“I knew early on that I wanted to try research, so I applied to several places for the summer after my first year, but none of them came through,” wrote Noah Lupu-Gladstein ’16 (Silver Spring, Md.). “I heard secondhand that a professor near home at the University of Maryland was looking for some extra hands around his fluid dynamics lab and landed an unofficial position there for the summer.

“The following school year I applied to more places and was selected to work with Macalester physics professor James Heyman in material science. After that, I heard about a semester-long research abroad program at CERN, home of the Large Hedron Collider, in Switzerland. I whipped up an application and now I’m working out travel plans and how to get my French visa because I’ll be at CERN for spring semester!”

November 3 2014

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