Exploring Research

Valuable knowledge and skills can be built through participating in research: a broader perspective on health and medicine, critical thinking and problem solving skills, ethical decision-making, and perseverance. You may develop strong mentoring relationships with supervisors and possibly become a mentor yourself. Research can spark excitement and passion for new fields and topics. And of course, participating in research allows you to learn and understand the research process itself, and even generate new knowledge. All of these potential benefits of research are valuable as you explore careers and build qualifications for professional school. 

Remember these key points as you consider participating in research:

  1. Research is diverse. A research experience relevant to you and your exploration of the health professions is not limited to the life sciences, or even to the sciences more broadly. If you are excited about diving into a research topic, but working in a laboratory environment is simply not for you, that’s ok! Explore the areas that most engage you. In addition to biology, neuroscience, and biochemistry, we have seen successful professional school applicants whose research was in politics, anthropology, statistics, public health, and more.
  2. Research is valuable and recommended, but (generally) not a requirement. Certain professions and individual programs will expect that qualified applicants will have some research experience. Others will not. Consider that when you work as a researcher, your lab P.I. or faculty mentor can become a valuable reference who can comment on your non-academic abilities. Speak with the pre-health office about your interests and goals to better understand how important research may be in your own professional school preparations.
  3. Want to get involved? Sometimes a professor will invite you to participate in research, but often this is an experience that you need to seek for yourself. Two common ways to find a first research experience in college are over a summer, or on campus with Mount Holyoke faculty.
    • Most summer research opportunities will be through formal summer undergraduate research programs. To view search databases and a select number of program descriptions, visit our summer planning document. You can also use Lynk UAF funding to do research on campus or off campus if you find a P.I. with whom you share common interests.
    • If you would like to do research on campus, a good place to start is on the academic pages of the Mount Holyoke website, where you can review faculty profiles. Each department page will have a “People” section where you can read faculty profiles and descriptions of individual research interests. When you find someone conducting research of interest to you, the next step is to send them an email.

Sample email to a professor who you do not know

Dear Prof. Reed,

My name is Samantha Marcus, and I am a sophomore, hoping to find a research opportunity at Mount Holyoke. I am fascinated by your work with glial cells and am wondering if you currently have any spaces for a student to join your lab.

A little more about me: I am from Brooklyn and plan to major in politics and complete a certificate in Culture, Health and Science. As a pre-health student I have already taken several courses in biology and chemistry, as well as statistics, so I have experience being in a lab.

I see that you have office hours on Friday mornings. Is it OK if I stop by this week to introduce myself in person?

Look forward to hearing from you,

Sam