Where will research take you?
Explore all of the disciplines and areas of research being explored at Texas A&M University today. Jump into finding a topic that fits with your passions and interests so that you can grow as a researcher!
The decision to pursue a graduate degree is a big one, especially if it involves working on research and submitting a thesis. Though not a topic stressed enough, finding the perfect research lab is very important, as it can determine your peace of mind (and satisfaction in general) while you pursue your degree. You will spend countless hours on your research work. Therefore, it is critically important to think very carefully before opting to join a lab or research group. Though it is easy to talk at length about this, I would probably be better at delivering my point with a few criteria which I think are important and helpful:
1. Make up your mind
Start looking for labs based on a general idea about what you want to do during your research. It is okay not to know specifically what you want, but having an outline of what would drive you is important. Is it experimental work, simulations or a combination of both that interest you the most? What are the areas in your field that you would like to work on? Once you have this in mind you can move on to the next step.
2. Find potential labs
Almost every faculty page on a departmental website includes their research areas and details of their most recent work areas. Carefully go through those, read some of their recent papers to understand what potential work in their labs would entail. Educating yourself on this is extremely helpful before moving on to the next step.
3. Approach professors
Once you have an idea of the research areas different faculty members pursue in your department, and you know the areas that intrigue you the most, you are probably in a position to approach professors. Oftentimes this decision is predicated by who has funding to support you in their work, but it is very important not to base your decision to pursue research on these limits entirely. I also firmly believe that advisors appreciate being approached by students who have done their due diligence in terms of understanding the kind of work they do. I think it is great to approach professors based on the ‘Why’ part of wanting to work with them. This gives you an edge and also helps continue the conversation once you finally meet them. Of course, this all depends on professors having space to take up more students and having work ethics that align with yours. This entire process takes time and you need to be patient.
4. Once you join a lab
Keeping yourself engaged and accountable is very important while doing research. Research is a long process full of triumphs and failures which require sticking with it through thick and thin. Make sure you have a good communication channel with your advisor; personally, I find maintaining a journal or blog on your daily research is extremely helpful. Also having a good support system in place is very important to keep you motivated.
I hope I was able to nail down the important pointers for finding the perfect research lab. I hope you find this helpful. I would love to hear what other points you think I might have missed. I wish all students in this pursuit the best of luck!
If you found this blog post interesting, you may consider reading “The Co-op Connection” and “You Graduated Without a Job Offer.. Now What?.”