Research Quest, Research Queries: nothing gets you going in the morning like a good ol’ fashioned protein assay…
Posted by Noah G. | Posted on February 14, 2011
Neuroscience majors must complete 6 credits of research obtained through work in one of the neuroscience laboratories participating in the program. Participation in laboratory research provides Undergraduates with the opportunity to experience neurobiology firsthand, and to familiarize themselves with the techniques, protocols and distinct culture of research. Don’t let the fact that research is required intimidate you, it’s an immensely rewarding experience and one that you will greatly enjoy. This is the story of how I found my way into the lab.
I was encouraged by my Introduction to Neuroscience professor, Dr. Stewart Hendry, to take a look at the Department of Neuroscience’s website and to go over the list of Faculty. He told me to read each professor’s research summary and to make a list of roughly five labs that I was most interested in. I did so, and sent out emails to each of them indicating my interest in their work and my desire to work in their lab.
As per Professor Hendry’s instruction, I wrote a brief ~50 word overture. This is what I sent to the Professor in whose lab I am currently doing research:
I’m writing to inquire about the possibility of working in your lab.
This past semester, I took Introduction to Neuroscience with Dr. Stewart Hendry, and I will be taking Cognitive Neuroscience in the Spring. Next semester, I have three credits that have yet to be allotted. I would very much like to use these credits for research.
I hope to hear from you soon.
cell: (***) ***-****
After a few days, I began to get responses. This is the most harrowing part of the whole saga. It is likely that some of the labs you contact will be saturated or will not respond, but for the most part, labs at Hopkins are extremely accommodating to undergraduates. That’s one of the amazing hallmarks of this University–the environment that encourages undergraduate research.
The next step with respect to a positive response will be to send your CV. CV stands for curriculum vitae which is Latin for “course of life”. In essence, it’s a summary of your academic and professional history.
For example, my CV is organized as follows:
Awards & Honors
When writing a CV, it can be shockingly difficult to think of things that you’ve done. But keep at it, and you’ll find that you’re probably more impressive than you thought!
After I sent my CV to the Dr. Dawson, he sent me an email asking when I could come in to meet him. I was terrified. I took the JHMI shuttle from Homewood to the Medical campus and arrived an hour before the time I was supposed to be there.
Our meeting was incredibly relaxed. He asked me about things such as my interest in Neuroscience, how I was doing in my classes and his upcoming trip to Hawaii. Then he offered to let me talk to two of his post-docs who had mentioned that they had an interest in having a student.
Their projects were incredibly different. One was working to isolate, sequence and model the conformational structure of a protein with a neuroprotective role in the CNS, and the other was investigating the role of a specific microRNA in preventing cell death in strokes resulting from a bilateral central carotid artery occlusion the mouse hippocampus. I’m far more interested in cellular neurobiology than biochemistry, so when Dr. Dawson asked me which I’d like to work with, I chose the second post-doc.
This semester, I arranged my schedule so that I could be in the lab from 9am-5pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I love every moment of it!
If you have any questions about research, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to get you an answer!