The following are the most frequently asked questions regarding undergraduate research in kinesiology.
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You will learn new skills and you may help to improve treatments, diagnoses and processes to help others. Speak with professors, lab instructors, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and staff of the undergraduate programs to learn more about research. Most of your lab instructors and TAs have been graduate students who know what it was like to try to find a supervisor and make the decision to pursue research. They will be happy to give you valuable advice and tips.
Determine what interests you. If you have questions about a specific topic, book a meeting with the professor(s) that teaches the subject or speak with them after class. Let them know you may be interested in research and ask them if they are looking for and/or are interested in having an undergraduate student for the summer.
Finding a supervisor is done informally and the student generally initiates contact. Let professors, students and staff know that you are interested in any opportunities that arise through informal networking. It can be challenging and hard work to find a supervisor but remember, people are here to help you find opportunities in your best interest.
You can contact potential supervisors directly; ask students in the lab or a TA; search their research background on the internet; or search PubMed for their name to find literature from recent projects their lab has published. You can also look up Kinesiology professors' areas of interest in the Annual Report (PDF).
Experience helps but it's not necessary. The purpose of conducting undergraduate research is to gain experience and see if research interests you. Supervisors know most undergraduates do not have research experience and will need training.
You may wish to approach them after class or by email to request a meeting. Ask them about anything you are interested in and whether they are looking for undergraduate students to conduct research. It is a good thing to know a bit about the professor’s research and why you are interested in his/her research before you contact them.
Everyone is busy but they will make time for you because your questions are important. Professors will respond to your questions over email, by booking a meeting or they can be approached after a class or in the hallway - ask them what they prefer.
Bring any information that you are comfortable providing about yourself, but remember the professor needs to assess your academic background and standing to be sure the courses you have taken are appropriate to undertake research in their area. You may wish to bring your transcripts, resume and any other information that you feel will assist them in determining whether your background is a ‘good fit’. Most importantly, bring a list of your questions.
Absolutely! Contact any professors you are interested in. They may know about funding opportunities at their university.
Once you have found a potential supervisor, discuss the conditions of the research position. Here are some questions you may want to ask.
What is the subject of the research project?
What type of work does it entail?
Who will I be working with?
What are the start/end dates of the position?
How much will I be paid?
What are the expected hours of work per week?
Can I take vacation time?
What can I do to prepare for my research experience?
How often will I meet with you (my supervisor) to review progress?
What other activities can I participate in to supplement the research experience?
Where can I apply for external funding?
Even if your supervisor has funding in place for you, receiving an undergraduate research award is a notable achievement to add to your resume, and it will contribute to your success with future opportunities in academics and research. Plan to apply to any and all competitions you are eligible for.
If you have an idea for a project, ask the supervisor if they are interested. A supervisor will tell you yes or no. Be open to trying new things, even if it's outside of your comfort zone. Research is about discovery, innovation and independence. There are resources within the laboratory and on‐campus to provide guidance as needed.
The research project is normally a collaborative effort between the supervisor and student. The application will determine who writes the proposal (supervisor, student, or supervisor and student).
Even professors need reference letters from time-to-time. Professors are busy but please don’t let that stop you from requesting a reference. Your applications are important and while you may feel that you are inconveniencing a professor, they understand that students need reference letters for anything they plan to do. This is how academia works. Be sure to request the reference well in advance of the deadline and provide a complete package to the referee that includes your transcripts and resume/CV and details of the award to help them to write a strong letter on your behalf. If they cannot write the reference, they will tell you, but usually they are happy to contribute to the future successes of students through reference letters.
Your references must be submitted from a professor with an academic appointment. This is an academic reference not a personal reference. While it is positive to get references from faculty members who know you well, the purpose of the references is to assess your research and academic capabilities and potential. While your TA spends one‐on‐one time with you in the laboratory and your employment supervisor may be able to assess important attributes, you are submitting the reference for academic and research purposes.
Check the requirements of each studentship competition and apply to all that you are eligible for. Funding is awarded on a competitive and ranked basis, however, many components are considered (GPA, references, project, etc). Regardless of where you think your application will rank, you do not know who else is applying. Perhaps your GPA will make you one of the top applicants. You will not know unless you apply. Some professors value the research capabilities of a candidate more than a high GPA. Also, you are an undergraduate so you will likely increase your GPA in the future and you are gaining important experience - if you are not successful this time, you may be in the next competition.
Compensation is not the only goal when applying for and receiving funding. Through the application process you will develop and improve your writing skills - something that will be of great value throughout your academic career. Competitive scholarships are also more meaningful on your resume than a supervisor funded position regardless of whether the amount of compensation is the same. Having successful applications on your resume, whether you accept them or not, looks great to future supervisors in academia or industry.
You and your supervisor will collaborate on the application, but having others (peers, graduate students, professors, etc) read your application may provide you with great feedback. The staff in the Kinesiology Research Office will be happy to refer you to past successful applicants of varying experience.
Different agencies have different criteria for what they will permit you to hold. You may need to decline multiple offers or arrange to conduct more than one research term. Your supervisor will help you work this out. Having success in various competitions means you are an exceptional candidate! Regardless of whether you accept or decline awards, you will list them on your resume/CV as successful awards. This is extremely helpful when applying to future competitions or for admission to future academic programs. This is only the beginning and your hard work will continue to be rewarded.
Attend visiting lectures, journal clubs and research conferences on and off campus. Network with professors, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students at every opportunity. Volunteering in a laboratory may lead to authorship on a publication, a paid research position or the pursuit of graduate school.