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Getting In

The Essential Guide to Finding a STEMM Undergrad Research Experience

Second Edition

Getting In

The Essential Guide to Finding a STEMM Undergrad Research Experience

Second Edition

An empowering guide for students in STEMM that demystifies the process of securing undergraduate research experiences.
Conducting research is an important foundation for many undergraduates on STEMM career paths. But landing an extremely competitive research spot that is also an enriching experience involves knowing how to present yourself effectively and an awareness of your goals and expectations. In this book, an expert lab manager and a longtime principal investigator share their secrets for obtaining these coveted positions.
Offering advice to students in a wide variety of STEMM fields at both research-intensive universities and primarily undergraduate institutions, Getting In helps students navigate the hidden curriculum of academia, unofficial rules that disproportionately affect first-generation college students and those from low-income backgrounds and communities historically underrepresented in science. The authors provide not only an overview of STEMM research and lab opportunities but also specific strategies for the entire application process—including how to write emails that get noticed by busy professors, how to ask for a research position during office hours, and interview questions to prepare for—so students can claim their place in research settings.
With its emphasis on the many interpersonal and professional benefits of research experiences, Getting In equips all STEMM undergrads with the tools they need both to secure these valued positions and to develop habits that will build productive relationships with their future research mentors.

As an undergrad, Getting In will help you:
  • determine how much time you can spend on research by evaluating your current activity level and goals.
  • find the time to do research without giving up your social life or risking your GPA.
  • avoid common mistakes in the search, application, or interview that make it harder to find a research experience.
  • write emails that get you noticed by busy professors by customizing the included templates.
  • prepare for tough interview questions so you’ll impress the interviewer with your answers, and be able to determine if the position is right for you.

As a research mentor, Getting In will help your students:
  • navigate the hidden curriculum of finding a research experience in science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine (STEMM).
  • set realistic expectations for their research experience.
  • understand why conducting research requires effort and will include some failure and other challenges.
  • be active participants in their success in the lab.


“Focused, functional, and accessible, Getting In will help students who are new to the process to look for, evaluate, apply to, interview for, and select research experiences. Importantly, it removes a lot of the barriers to success faced by students with fewer resources, experience, and supports, and in doing so increases access and opportunity for all students in STEMM.”

Laura Rico-Beck, Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, University of Chicago

“A terrific guidebook for students early on in their science research career. Getting In provides an organized plan, including strategies, timelines, and examples, to help students move from questioning to well educated, from uncertain to confident in their qualifications and goals. It is a treasure trove of broadly applicable resources for advisors, mentors, and students in classrooms and research labs.”

Susan Bush Tripp, Natural Sciences Department, Metropolitan State University

"Eminently useful. . . . This is an excellent book of value for any faculty member involved in undergraduate research, for undergraduate advisers working with various students, and for virtually any undergraduate."

Council on Undergraduate Research, on the First Edition

"Many undergraduate students want to do research for one reason or another, but may not know much about it or how to get a position. The language is straightforward . . . and the tone is aimed directly at undergraduate students; it's clear from the beginning that the authors are highly attuned to the college student's mindset and lifestyle. . . . I would definitely recommend this book for early undergraduate students who are considering a career in the sciences."

Student Doctor Network, on the First Edition

Table of Contents


Part One
1: Why Choose Research?
What’s in It for You?
Professional Development Opportunities
Interpersonal Development Opportunities
Academic Advantages
Connections—Professional, Personal, and More
Potential Financial Rewards
Recommendation and Reference Letters
2: An Introduction to STEMM Research, Research Groups, and Lab Cultures
What Is Scientific Research?
Nine Parts to a Research Project, Simplified
The Research Team and Work Environment
Your Mentors
Lab Culture
3: Will I Like Conducting Research?
Understanding and Managing Your Expectations—Your Strategy for Happiness and Success
Qualifications for Participation in Undergrad Research
The Ideal Time to Start Undergrad Research
The Time Commitment
The Experience Paradox
Using Lab Classes to Prepare for Undergrad Research
Wet Lab Positions for Undergrads
Projects for Undergrad Researchers
Deciding Whether to Register for Course Credit for Research
Summer Undergrad Research Programs (SURPs)
Why Research Positions Are Competitive (and What You Can or Can’t Do about It)

Part Two
4: Your Search Strategy
Ten Search Mistakes to Avoid
Getting Started Is the Hardest Part
Step 1: Schedule and Prioritize Your Time
Step 2: Identify Potential Meaningful Research Experiences
More Methods to Identify Undergrad Research Opportunities
Tips on Selecting and Reading a Scientific Paper before Applying for a Research Position
Maintaining Your Academic and Life Balance in Future Semesters
5: Your Application Strategy
Ten Application Mistakes to Avoid
Application Procedure
Step 1: Craft Your CV and Obtain Your Transcript
Step 2: Make First Contact
Step 3: Complete Online Applications for SURPs and Other Opportunities (When Applicable)
6: Your Interview Strategy
Ten Interview Mistakes to Avoid
Tips Specific to Virtual Interviews
To Seize Your Undergrad Research Interview, Ask the Questions That Matter
Mentors’ Interviewing Styles
Preparing for the Interview
At the Interview
After the Interview
Congratulations, You’re Now an Undergrad in the Lab!
Ten Tips to Prepare for Your First Day of Your Undergrad Research Experience


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