Getting a summer job in a research group?

For an undergrad student, applying and getting a summer job in a research group can be a life changing experience. This is when you will get a taste of what doing scientific research, along side graduate students, feels like. For many, this is all the necessary push needed to apply to graduate studies.

Here a few advises in preparation for your application (this is the time of the year to do so, if you have not already):

  • Do not underestimate the letter of motivation. Not only should you demonstrate that the field of research of a particular group is of interest to you but this is also the document in which you should underline any links between your course works and the skills needed for the job i.e. an experimental summer job link to your excellent results in your laboratory course works.
  • Your CV should list all relevant accomplishments that you did, including past summer jobs, particular computer skills (such as C or C++ programming – knowing WORD or EXCEL is not a relevant computer skill, it is a given!), knowledge of specific analysis technique or software (e.g. Matlab), written technical reports or scientific manuscripts from a previous job if applicable (give a copy with your application), list of technical or scientific presentations (also if applicable) …
  • Chose the peoples that will act as your references wisely. They will likely be contacted and should have more than one line to say about you.
  • Do your homework and search the web before meeting with the professor. You must have an idea of what’s going on in the lab. This will likely involve looking at more than the research group website but also Wikipedia (definitions), national and international associations and groups related to the field of research and more.

Too often, I meet students (even those applying for graduate studies) that clearly have not taken the time to even look at my group website. This unfortunately is held against them, counting as a lack of true interest for the lab and the field of research.


  1. Thank you for your quick reply. I definately understand the point you are trying to make about GPA. The director of the program (Bridges to Baccalaureate) explained what is expected of the potential candidates. I just got back from the symposium and it went great. Very fascinating research being done at UTEP. I’ve got the contact information and ready to schedule interviews with the professors I want to work with. I also found out after safety laboratory certification, we will be trained on the basic laboratory procedures depending on which laboratory we will be working in. Thank you again and any other advice would be greatly appreciated.


  2. Thank you for the great advise. I will be attending a symposium where professors and graduate students will be presenting their current work tomorrow! I have one question though. I am in my sophomore year of college and have a genuine interest in the biomedical field, however I have no laboratory experience at all. Will this count against me?


    1. Stephanie,

      If it is not on your CV it cannot be held against you BUT it cannot help you either. Let me explain. Every years, I received around about two dozen CVs for summer internship in my research group. Usually, 1/3 are discarded only based on the GPA (beeing too low to even get to grad studies). For the remaining CVs, I will look at past work experiences, in particular research/laboratory works. I will also look at particular course results for courses that are relevant to the project to be done.

      Based on this information, I will select what I called the top 1/3 for interview, probe their knowlegde, ask about their past experiences and gauge their interest.

      What I notice for the past 10 years, if you have top 10% GPA, getting to the interview is a given (most of the time). If you have a good GPA but below that of the top 10% of your University cohort, having done specific projects, laboratory works or other science or technical works is a big plus. For me, it means I can ask the colleagues for which the student has worked for feedback. I would much prefer to hire an independant, hard working and creative student with a lower GPA than an “exam machine” (those who can answer any formely formatted questions but cannot perform in a lab where you get to ask the questions yourself).

      Not sure if this help, but wish you the best.


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