Getting Started in Research
Find a mentor:
Search for faculty research interests on Scholars@Duke. Type in a topic in the search engine.
Search the Medical Center Faculty Database .
Contacting Potential Mentors
Remember – Not every potential mentor will say “yes”, and not all who do will be appropriate for you. So be prepared to send out 6-10 letters.
Mentors are very busy….
- Keep it short & to the point (8 sentences max)
You are starting a relationship…
- Be polite, be respectful (“Dear Dr. So-and-so”)
Mentors value enthusiasm and genuine interest …
- Be familiar with the mentor’s research, be specific about why it interests you
- Connect the research opportunity to your academic and career plans
Mentors value commitment and reliability…
- Make clear your availability. i.e., when you can start, how long you can commit, how many hours per week, flexibility
- Make clear your intentions for the relationship. E.g., independent study leading to an honors thesis, or work-study position leading to a research opportunity
Mentors value knowledge and skills …
- Briefly mention relevant courses, grades/GPA, previous lab experience
- Optional: attach a CV/resumé as a pdf file
Make it easy for the mentor to say “yes”…
- Send from your @duke.edu address
- Include your complete contact information
Make it ok for the mentor to say “no”….
- “If a position is not available in your lab, could you kindly refer me to a colleague who might have an opening if you know of someone.”
Mentors are very busy and may not respond…
- Be persistent, but polite. Wait a week, and if you don't get a response, try contacting someone else.
Mentors are very busy and might say “no” ….
- If temporary (no current funding, full roster of undergrads, etc), let them know if you will still be interested in the future
- Be polite and thank them – you are still building relationships (and a reputation)
Mentors are very busy, but they just might say “yes”!
- Be polite and thank them
- Ask for an opportunity to meet before finalizing your decision
When you interview…
- Be on time; Be yourself – avoid dressing too formally or too informally; Listen attentively
- Be ready to discuss your goals and interests
- Ask to meet the members of the lab, to see the lab
- Be ready to discuss the projects – read the web site, published, papers, background info
- Be prepared to be offered a choice of projects – know enough to make a thoughtful decision.
- Ask about expectations – time? independence? who will be your ‘direct’ mentor?
Still need help getting connected?
Are you interested in a laboratory position or Independent Study doing cutting-edge research, but haven't had time to look for a lab? Do you have previous laboratory experience and have you taken math and science courses at Duke? If this is you, send me a resume, including your major, Duke courses, GPA, and research interests, and I will help you find a laboratory that fits your interests. Those interested in a career in science are especially encouraged to send their information. The above information should be sent to Dr. Jessica Harrell, Director of Academic Engagement for the Natural and Quantitative Sciences