If you do your homework and approach potential mentors well-prepared, feel confident in your ability to express your goals and interests. The following tips are designed to help you prepare for meetings with faculty and researchers regarding potential UROPs and apply equally to interviewing in person or remotely via Zoom/video chat. The meeting is your chance to learn more about the available opportunity and a great forum for asking lots of questions to help you decide if the project is a good fit for you.
- Leave plenty of time for your UROP meeting, which may or may not be called an interview depending upon the culture of the given lab group.
- Do not pick a meeting time that is too close to the start of a class or other activity. You want to have enough time for a productive conversation with your potential mentor.
- Remember that faculty members and researchers are people too. Don’t be shy!
- Be inquisitive, and be prepared to answer questions and talk about yourself and your long term academic and career goals.
Prepare an introduction to help you begin the discussion:
- Introduce yourself (your name, class year and major or intended major).
- In a few sentences, describe your academic goals, interests, and what you hope to gain from the meeting.
- Explain your reasons for being interested in the research project and a UROP with this group. Why do you want to work with this faculty member? What skills do you bring to the table?
Ask questions about expectations to help you determine if the project is right for you:
- Listen to what the professor/researcher has to say. Be ready to ask follow-up questions to clarify the potential research you would perform and potential outcomes.
- Discuss whether you are looking for pay, credit, or just want to volunteer. This information can help determine what project might be a good fit based on available resources.
- Explain your goals and motivations for pursuing this UROP. Reflect upon whether you can accomplish your goals in this group.
- Find out more about the research project. How does it relate to other work in the field. What would your specific role be?
- Ask about mentorship and supervision. Will you work with the Professor or a grad student, post doc, etc?
- Ask about the group expectations: How many hours per week would you be expected to be in the lab? How are absences handled (e.g. if you get sick, need time to study, have too many p-sets, need to take a day off for some reason, how do they prefer you let them know you can’t make it in, do you need to obtain prior approval before taking a day off or would 24 hour notice suffice, etc.)?
- Ask about how you will be graded, if a credit UROP. Will you need to keep a lab notebook, write an end of term report, etc.?
- Ask about project deliverables. Are there expectations about what you will accomplish in a given period? Is a specific end product required?
- Be realistic about your technical skills and prior experiences. Don’t over-commit yourself or claim to have skills that you have yet to master (If you only have 3 free hours per week, don’t commit to work 10. If you know a little bit of C, don’t say that you are a fluent C programmer). What are your strengths and weakness?
Before committing to a UROP project, be sure to ask yourself: Would I be happy working on this type of project with this group?
Research collaborations should be pleasant educational experiences. If a given research project, research responsibilities, or dynamic of a certain lab group doesn’t feel like a good fit for you and your interests, then continue your search until you find a project that you will enjoy and a group with whom you feel very comfortable collaborating.
Research groups vary in many ways—lab size, management styles, lab and mentor personalities, etc. so finding a lab that is a good fit is important. Research is collaborative, so don’t commit based on research interests and learning objectives alone—consider your collaboration and guidance preferences in your search. See Finding the Right Mentor Match for additional advice.