What experience/courses do I need to do research?

You probably have many of the skills needed. Conducting research is a skill you learn, and it often relies heavily on qualities and characteristics similar to other jobs.

Faculty are looking for students who:

  • Ask questions and speak up when they are confused or don’t understand

  • Show up on time reliably and are dependable in meeting deadlines

  • Work well in a team

  • Are comfortable making mistakes, facing setbacks, and overcoming failure

Faculty in specific labs may also be looking for other skills depending on the research. These skills may include a love of animals, strong interpersonal and communication skills, the ability to follow a recipe and directions, or specific knowledge and information from relevant courses. 

Every faculty member looks for different attributes in a student researcher. You can explore current faculty research and opportunities and see when faculty are next looking to work with independent research students and learn more about who they are looking for. Or, you can email a faculty member in the department directly and ask them what they look for in a research assistant.

How do I find out about research opportunities?

If you are interested in learning more about research opportunities outside of the classroom, read about the various research topics our faculty are studying. 

Everyone can apply to do research! Almost all of the lab courses in the department offer opportunities to obtain specific skills relevant to research, and knowledge from seminar courses often helps students devise independent projects with the help of a research advisor.

Students across all classes can get involved in independent research. Some faculty are looking to recruit first-years or sophomores, while others request you wait until your junior year or take a specific course before engaging in research in their lab. 

Student Research Examples

The department has a strong emphasis on real research at all levels of the curriculum. In most lab courses students will collect data, and in many courses students will have the opportunity to conduct independent projects and present their findings.

For example in Craig Woodard's lab, Marlena Starrs is using the laser scanning confocal microscope to visualize the actin cytoskeleton of  larval fat body cells in Drosophila melanogaster during metamorphosis. Marlena stains the cells with rhodamine phalloidin. During metamorphosis, the larval fat body remodels from a sheet of connected cells to individual, separated cells that are motile. The cells of the remodeled fat body move through the hemolymph in the pupal body using an actomyosin-driven, peristaltic form of motility. They play roles in wound healing and help fight infection. Marlena is studying aurora-A loss-of-function mutants, which fail to remodel the larval fat body normally. aurora-A encodes a protein kinase that is involved in regulating the function of cytoskeletal proteins such as actin. Since fat body cells use actin to migrate, we hypothesize that aurora-A is necessary for fat body cell motility. Marlena is testing this hypothesis by looking for differences between actin organization in aurora-A mutants compared to wild-type controls.