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Undergraduate Program: Research Opportunities

Research Tips and Advice

  1. Follow your own interests.
    Don't ever decide to do anything because you think it will "look good on your record." Students who take on projects they really aren't interested in often do a suboptimal job and instead of getting an enthusiastic recommendation, they may get a mediocre one. Indeed, some professional school admissions committees indicate that they are more interested in seeing sustained commitment to a single interest rather than a smattering of experiences. These committees emphasize that whether a student is interested in music, politics, volunteer work or laboratory research is less important than the demonstration of a genuine commitment on the part of the student.
  2. When should you undertake a research project?
    This is not a simple question to answer and there is no clear consensus, but in general you probably shouldn't start research until you have an adequate course background to understand the context of what you are doing. Some students start on research projects during or after their sophomore year, but others defer the research experience until after their junior year. Exactly when you start will depend on your area of interest and the intensity of your own program of study.
  3. How do you find a research project?
    In general, students will participate in an ongoing research project in a working laboratory. In addition to Biology and other science departments on the Tufts Medford campus, Tufts students have carried out research projects at Tufts Medical, Dental or Veterinary Schools as well as at other Boston institutions such as the Dana Farber Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, The Shriners Burns Institute and a variety of biotechnology companies. A list of Biology Department faculty and their research interests is available in the department office and in the graduate program description on this web site. Spaces for student research projects in the Biology Department tend to fill up quickly, so plan on contacting faculty members during the semester before you want to begin doing research. For up-to-date information on research projects, see Blackboard.
  4. How much time does it take?
    LOTS. You probably should not even try to do a research project unless you have plenty of time to spend on it. Bio 93/94 requires a minimum of 10 to12 hours a week and Bio 193/194 requires 15 to 20 hours a week. But be aware that some weeks you will need to spend even more time than this. Obviously this is incompatible with a five class program of study and a part-time job. Be very realistic about this, since doing a poor job is probably worse for you than not doing a project at all.

The above comments are not meant to discourage students. Although it is often difficult to get substantial results in the short period of time available, the rewards of doing research are many. There is absolutely nothing as exciting as discovering something new. If you have the inclination, time and background, definitely give it shot! It could be the most rewarding experience of your undergraduate career.

Getting Started

Academic Year Research
Students are encouraged to write up a resume and schedule of times when they will be available for research work before they contact faculty members. A list of off-campus faculty who have mentored students in the past or who have indicated interest in mentoring students is available from the Bio 93/193 course coordinator. Students are also encouraged to identify on their own researchers in the Boston area in whose research they are interested and obtain lab positions with them.

Summer Research
Programs from other universities are posted on the bulletin board across from the Biology Department office and also in the department Reading Room (magazine rack).

View a list of recent projects and mentors.

View recent publications with Tufts undergraduates listed as co-authors.