Even if you have previous lab experience from a high school or college lab class, the first few weeks of a new research experience in a professional research lab will have its challenges, surprises, and probably be quite different from you expect. It might take a few weeks before you feel at home in the lab, but it will happen if you stick with it and commit to learning everything you can about your research project. To help you prepare for your new adventure, here are some things that await most undergraduates at the start of a new research experience.
There is only one guarantee in research: sometimes things fail. It doesn’t matter what your major is, how much experience you have, or whether your research is basic, applied, clinical, or translational. A research project will test your reliance, discipline, motivation, and, at times, it might make you feel like giving up. However, when your project hits a wall (and most do at some point), how you handle the disappointment is the key to your future success. Your reaction will also influence your labmates and how much help they will offer to get you back on track.
Unfortunately, some undergrads let their frustration get the better of them when faced with failure in the lab. Not only does this make their experience less rewarding, but it’s unpleasant for the other lab members, and that can lead to unintended consequences for the undergrad.