How to Find an Undergraduate Research Opportunity in Life Sciences at the University of Toronto

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1) Determine Your Interests in Research

  • Visit departmental and researchers’ websites.
  • Review posters in hallways near laboratories.
  • Follow up on topics that sparked your interest in lectures and courses.
  • Read general and specialty journals to get a better overview of a topic.

2) Discover Different Ways to Explore Research

  • Speak to course instructors/professors, teaching assistants and graduate students whose areas of study are of interest to you.
  • Talk to classmates and upper year students — especially those who have participated in undergraduate research including credit courses and summer student research opportunities.
  • Join undergraduate student societies/unions, which often provide information sessions and seminars about research experiences.
  • Look for opportunities on departmental office bulletin boards and websites, usually listed under “undergraduate” or “summer programs.”  Visit glse.utoronto.ca for undergraduate research opportunities in the life sciences at U of T.
  • Look for information about research-oriented courses. The Research Opportunity Program, for example, has many research programs for second-year undergraduate students.
  • Check out the Centre for International Experience, Science Abroad for research opportunities abroad.  See work-study positions on the Career Centre website.
  • Discover opportunities at affiliated hospitals and their research institutes, and at other national/international universities and research institutes.
  • Attend departmental research seminars.
  • Visit undergraduate and graduate research poster sessions.
  • Review the U of T Blue Book bluebook.utoronto.ca to find professors.

3) How to Apply                                                 

  • Pick your area of research and start applying at least eight months before you hope to start. It is competitive and there are a limited number of research positions.
  • Send individual messages to professors you want to work with; don’t send mass messages.
  • When contacting professors, include a cover letter that describes your research interests, program and year of study, and career goals.
  • You should show that you are aware of the professor’s field of research.
  • Keep track of application deadlines.  Summer research opportunities are often posted in the fall term.
  • Pay careful attention to prerequisites, minimum GPA, time commitments, etc.
  • Talk to a career counsellor about career management, cover letters, resumes and interviews.
  • Ensure your information is accurate and current.
  • Contact your references ahead of time to let them know they may be asked for a reference.

4) How to Prepare for the Interview

  • Learn all you can about the professor’s research, publications and website.
  • Review interview information, including date, time and location.

5) The Day of the Interview

  • Bring a notepad and pen, a copy of your cover letter, resume, names and contact addresses of potential referees, and if applicable, a portfolio or samples of your work (e.g., old lab notebooks from undergraduate lab courses).
  • Arrive punctually and turn off your cell phone.
  • Listen carefully and speak clearly.
  • Be ready to talk about any research you have done and your interest in science and research.
  • Ask questions and take notes.

6) After the Interview

  • Follow up after your interview.  Some researchers are willing to give you feedback about your interview.
  • Reflect and learn for your next interview. You gain experience from each interview.

7) Patience and Perseverance

  • Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the position. Science is competitive, but almost all students eventually find a position.
  • Be patient, as it may take professors time to consider all applicants.
  • Contact as many professors as possible to increase your chances

PDF iconHow to Find an Undergraduate Research Opportunity in Life Sciences.pdf

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