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