Finding Summer Research Opportunities
May 17, 2012 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Help me think of summer research opportunities for teachers/post-baccs.

I am a pre-service science teacher who is enamored with the idea of doing interesting research/actual science over the summer at labs or just around, but I want an authentic research experience affiliated with an academic institution.

I applied to Cal Poly's STAR STEM Teacher and Researcher, but unfortunately, I wasn't picked from the applicants by any labs, which could possibly be due to my mediocre undergrad science scores (mostly B's), or because I don't have any experience in research (which that program was created to give you--but since it's researchers that pick the final applicants, I bet they probably only want experienced applicants).

Since that was my only prospect for this summer (because I was sure I'd get in), I am now left with very little to do this summer. It's probably too late to remedy this because all other fellowships required applications far earlier in the year. This summer will probably be spent simply planning in great detail, my first full year of teaching.

However, I'd like to have good plans for next year. If I wanted to get involved in interesting research as a science teacher, or simply as a person who has already graduated with his bachelor's in science, but only for a summer, what types of resources might I seek out?

Keep in mind that my undergrad GPA is only 3.02 (STAR applications required it so others might as well), and I haven't had any research experiences during my undergrad years. Thanks!
posted by Peregrin5 to Education (3 answers total)
I am answering from the perspective that I've worked with many volunteers coming through labs. I also hired a student to help with cadavers (it wasn't that technical, but stay with me).

Anyway, I give similar/identical advice here, but I would be very proactive starting now or as soon as possible.

Basically, go to the webpage of the science departments that interest you and read the "about our lab/prof" pages. See what strikes your interest. Pick a few. Find the most recent publications (or a review article if your science background is basic). Email the prof and state how you are interested in volunteering in a lab, have a background in X as an undergrad, and your ultimate goal is to do science/teach. Ask to make an appointment. Go with questions and do mention that you have read their work (and ask relevant questions). This will put you 10X ahead of most people who approach PIs.

Other places to look: Go to the department offices and ask their if they know if someone is looking to hire lab assistants/work with undergrads/etc. Ask if they know if someone just got a grant. You know how I mention that I hired a student? This was because...2 approached me at my door, when I was busy. No need for me to post flyers, interview, if 2 interested pple appear in front of you.

Some other places that you could look.Do see if the university also has a science outreach program for schools or do educational research. This may be the perfect place for you to work with because will be a science teacher and may have unique insights. You may also want to look into psychology labs that do memory research/learning research etc/or whatever interests you. You mention that your grades may be weak but you have undergrad science classes...this is often ahead of some psych majors but some faculty do science research.

Since you will likely be volunteering may want to do 2 labs and treat them like lab rotations.It could expose you to more techniques/fields. If you get a few interviews with faculty and invites....look harder at what you want. For example, some labs will put your name on a publication if you do some of the research/or let you present a poster at a conference. So do also ask: Do the students names ever get put on publications?Or could there be funding in future summers? Etc.

Even if you need the $, I would highly recommend that you find a lab and at least do some research this summer....that will put you ahead in future years.

One more may see if there are intro science courses in the summer.Could you volunteer and help out in the labs? As an undergrad, I rolled my eyes at some of the first year lab courses but....if you ever teach/or help teach the lab, it can give you cool activities that you can then teach to classes. You get a chance to see what works well/doesn't work well, too.
posted by Wolfster at 8:41 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the advice Wolfster! It gives me some initiative to just show up to a professor and ask if they need volunteers and create educated inquiries into the matter.

I'm wondering if you think it might be better to just do this at the community college nearby, or make the trek out to UC Berkeley or CSU Hayward (I live in the Bay area) to ask the profs.
posted by Peregrin5 at 10:18 PM on May 17, 2012


Most community colleges don't require the faculty to do research, so they may not even have labs (and by default,not need research assistants or volunteers) available.

This is what I would do (depending on whatever science area your interests are in, let's just say biology) to decide which faculty to approach. Go the biology web pages for the CC, UC Berkeley, and CSU Hayward. Then go to the individual about us faculty web pages. Read their blurbs. What interests you? If the research of 5 potential PIs is at Hayward, approach people there. Or if there are a few at each university, send out a few emails to each place. But let your interests (and then whatever faculty states yes, they can use a volunteer) drive which school and faculty to approach. Do check out the CC, but I really doubt that they have research labs.
posted by Wolfster at 5:05 AM on May 18, 2012

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