Neuroscience Student Research
Neurons in the Enteric Nervous System
A research experience allows students the opportunity to build critical thinking skills by applying classroom theory to a real life situation. Under the guidance of a Neuroscience faculty member, students are able to research a neuroscience topic of their choice.
Students who sign up for Neuro 490, 495 or 499 must complete an independent study contract with the faculty mentor. A signed original must be turned into the Neuroscience Program, VBR room 205. A copy of the "Neuroscience 495/499 Independent Study Contract" form can be found in appendix B of the undergraduate handbook (PDF).
Tips to Selecting a Lab (excerpt from Baylor University)
What are some tips to do your own sleuthing for the best lab? First, read up on articles published from the lab you are interested in. Discover if the publications are interesting to you. Secondly, check online by entering the researcher or Principal Investigator's (PI) name into a search engine like Google Scholar (www.scholar.google.com). This quick background search enables you to see the activities (i.e., review boards, faculty committee, and other institutions) and interests the PI has. By knowing the researcher's commitments and interest in advance, you may be able to check to see how active the researcher is in the academic community. This is useful to know, since it may make the PI more valuable to you as a mentor. Thirdly, it never hurts to call up your advisor. S/he will be glad to help you identify a faculty of interest. In fact, your advisor will often know the personality and character of the researcher and can often provide good clues on whether your personality will match with that of the researcher. Fourthly, e-mail the alumni in his/her lab. You can often get this information from your advisor. Lastly, determine the number of publications the lab produced in the past 2 years. This information would help you determine how prolific the research lab is. A lab that publishes a lot will tend to be more aggressive in their research, which indicates that your research project will not languish.
Like a new discovery, finding the right research lab to work in is an inexact science. Picking a research laboratory based on your research interest is undoubtedly the most critical first step. If you are not excited about what you are researching, then your research experience will be miserable. With your list in hand, go through the faculty handbook and isolate faculty whose research is on your list of possible fields of research you would like to explore more.
With the list of faculty in hand, determine the size of each researcher's lab. Often times, a small lab environment gives an opportunity to interact with the Principle Investigator (PI) more directly and it gives the opportunity to interact more closely with co-workers. The advantage of working in a large laboratory is that there will be plenty of grad students and postdocs who can offer you assistance on your research project. Also, a large lab allows you to learn about more research projects that other people are doing.
Contact the research lab directly and learn what research project you would potentially be working on. An idea would be to e-mail the PI with your resume and a cover letter stating specific areas of interest in the PI's research. By knowing the titles of the possible research projects ahead of time, you will be able to make an informed decision in choosing the lab.
Although the advice presented here is helpful, it is definitely not foolproof. You should keep a short list of researchers with whom you would like to do research. Often times, you will get your first pick. Keep in mind that some faculty may be out of town for prolonged periods, on sabbatical for one semester to one year, lack funding for your project, or your experience does not match the faculty's requirements.