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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UNH chapter.

When I was first considering going to UNH, I remember everybody who went there telling me how amazing the research program was, every tour guide and orientation leader would remind me that we’re the number one research school in the state! While that seemed great to high-school-me, as soon as I got to college, I realize I had no idea how to take advantage of that. I knew I wanted to do research, but I didn’t know where to start. After talking with other students and teachers, I learned that the process to get involved can seem daunting, but it’s pretty simple to get into research in any field.

  • Determine your field of interest.

This might seem like an obvious first step, but an important part of excelling in research is finding a field that you want to learn more about, and that you already have some foundational knowledge and/or interest in. It’s okay if you’re unsure about exactly what you want to research, but having a general idea for a field of research you want to get involved in will narrow your search and get you connected to the right principal investigator (or PI- this refers to the professor or graduate student who leads the research).

  • Find professors at your university in that field and read about their research.

Every professor at the school with a doctorate had to complete a research project (or a thesis) to achieve their degree. Most professors or graduate students with ongoing research are looking for student helpers, which means that there’s plenty of research options for undergraduates to get involved in (this goes for every discipline- research isn’t only for the STEM students)! Look up professors at UNH in the field you’re interested in and read about their work. Write down anything that sticks out to you and make a list of about three to four different professors that you want to reach out to about their work; not all PIs are looking for undergraduates, so it’s good to have backups.  

  • Reach out to the professor.

This is usually the step that scares people the most- it can be intimidating! But many professors are incredibly passionate about their research and love talking to interested students about it. A formal email is usually the best way to reach out to a professor, but if you’re taking a class with them, it could be more beneficial to go in-person to their office hours and talk face-to-face. To really impress them, mention some specifics about their work that stuck out to you- for example, how their research is unique, the impact it has, etc. The worst a professor can say is that they aren’t looking for student help, but usually they’ll be more than happy to help you get involved in other ways or help you find other projects. If they are looking for help, you’ll typically schedule an informal interview where you talk about the lab and the sort of work they do.

  • Find out before joining the lab what an undergraduate’s duties are and what opportunities there are for you.

In most undergraduate labs, since you’re still a student first, many PIs will give you small responsibilities, such as assisting in data analysis or helping to run an experiment. When talking with a PI about joining their research, it’s important to ask questions about what typical undergraduate duties are, and what doors this research can open for you. For example, while my responsibilities for my lab aren’t too crazy, being involved means I can present at conferences (like the upcoming 2023 UNH Undergraduate Research Conference), have my name on a published paper, and design my own project under the guidance of my PI- these opportunities are typical for most undergraduates in research after being with the lab for a certain amount of time.

  • Be committed.

Make a good impression and show up! The more willing to commit you are, the more opportunities your PI will give you in the future. Many researchers understand that as undergraduates, our priority is our academics, so don’t feel pressured to go above and beyond; but completing the tasks that are assigned to you on time and showing up to every research meeting is important in succeeding in your research.

Emily is a junior Neuroscience & Behavior major on the pre-med track at University of New Hampshire. She loves all things medicine, music, and art, and when she's not studying she can be found spending time with friends or her cat.