Undergraduate Research

Are you interested in conducting undergraduate research in the Patricelli Lab?
Start by looking around this site, and also the Patricelli Lab site.

Then read our advertisement for undergraduate researchers, and an information sheet. These are some of the research guidelines for working in the lab.

Looking for other undergraduate opportunities?

Start by looking for advertisements on hallway bulletin boards (legit ads, not “stay at home mom makes $3000/week” ads!) Next step, think about what you would want to do, and ask your TA’s and professors if they know of anything. Also ask at the internship and career center, they may know of programs. Especially for summer work, you can look for opportunities on some of the websites we use to advertise for our post-graduate field assistants (see Getting a Field Job). Pay particular attention to REU announcements- these are positions funded by the National Science Foundation specifically for allowing students like you to participate in research (usually getting to pursue your own project to some extent).

Also please check out Biology Undergraduate Scholars Program (UC Davis), Biology Scholars Program (UC Berkeley) or the equivalent on your campus. The population of scientists historically has not (and still doesn’t) fully mirror the population as a whole, and many programs are attempting to address this problem. These programs succeed by increasing access to research and professional opportunities along with networking and academic support. Please check them out!

General Notes about Undergraduate Research.
This doesn’t look like what I see on the Discovery Channel. Why don’t I get to work with real animals/lasers/giant telescopes?
While you may be fortunate enough to get to participate in the most exciting aspects of cutting edge research, this is not always the case as an undergraduate. It is much more common to start with something more basic. In our lab students typically begin by watching video tapes of bird behavior. After working on these general projects, students with the time, motivation, and skills might move into new projects involving more independence. We require that our sage-grouse field crews have a bit more experience; our Wyoming assistants are graduates and have proven themselves in multiple difficult field biology positions.

Note that many of our undergraduates have been first in line for other campus research opportunities that do involve live animals, such as local projects on scrub jays, meadowlarks, feather development in chickens…

What about getting paid?
Some undergraduate positions are paid, many are not. In the Patricelli lab we typically can offer course credit or internship sponsorship, but not money. We occasionally see announcements for grants to sponsor undergraduate research.

Getting Recommendation Letters
Can you (or professor X) write me a letter for this job/scholarship/grad school/med school?
Probably. We have written letters for various professional schools (med, vet, pharm, dental), M.S. and Ph.D. programs, and various job opportunities.There are some important things to keep in mind. First, make sure you give us what we need to write the recommendation. This mainly involves TIME. Please give us as much forewarning as possible. Weeks if not months. Please give us details on the program, and also on yourself (for example, include your most recent resume or CV, and statement of purpose or application essay if you have it). Also, please give us a reminder as the deadline approaches.

We will strive to write the most positive letters we can. We can do a lot more if you really have been an exceptional member of the lab. In other words, we can write a much stronger letter for someone who has worked with us for several quarters, actively helped other students in the lab, come up with independent research questions, etc. To be more specific about this- if you worked with us for only one quarter on a basic project, there’s really only so much we can write about, so expect a letter that is more about our lab’s research and not very much about you (i.e. a positive but generic letter).

Another note- if at all possible, make sure we can write confidential letters. Confidential letters are taken more seriously by reviewers.

One more thing- letters for students who have left the lab will be contingent upon return of your lab key and a final data summary, if applicable.

You can also read these thoughts about getting letters from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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