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.