Breaking into a research lab is all about networking; research assistant positions in labs are generally not found on websites. Therefore, to find a research assistant position, you must network. More importantly however, breaking into a research lab is about knowing how to network strategically. To help you get started, search DePaul's Faculty Bio Page to find faculty who share your research interests. Even if you have never taken a class with a professor you are interested in working with, you can still reach out to them. Read some of their recent publication's abstracts to determine what it is they actually research and if there is a match with your research interests.
How to Make Contact
- Faculty Are Also Humans
- It is perfectly normal for you to contact faculty. Note that faculty can be busy, so be patient when awaiting email replies. Remember to always be professional in your outreach messages, which includes making sure you always use their correct titles (e.g. Prof or Dr., not Mr./Ms.). Be sure to include your first and last name too.
- Show What You Know
- In other words, be specific about your interests and why you are contacting one professor in particular. Visit their website and take the time to read through some of their abstracts to learn about where their research has gone, and where it is going now. Better yet, take a class they teach and do well in it - professors always notice students who work hard in the classroom.
- Try Lab Managers and Graduate Students
- Many professors delegate parts of running the lab to others. If you email a lab, copy the lab manager, and/or graduate students. Say you are open to speaking with whoever is available.
- Is the professor too busy or is their lab full? Don't
hesitate to ask for referrals to other labs and research collaborators.
Always take a polite "no" as an opportunity to seek out other labs, researchers,
and external partners to connect with.
What Not To Do
- Do Not Send Mass Emails
- Do you respond to bulk emails that are obviously not written to you and clearly sent to multiple people? Take the time to write each professor an individualized, professional, and personable email.
- Don't Ask for a Job on the First Date
- In your initial email, do not ask whether you can join their lab or pay you to work for them. Instead, ask to meet so you can learn more about them and their research. After you have met and started to build some rapport, you can then transition into conversations about how to get involved with their lab.