Meeting with faculty you’re interested in working with can be intimidating. However, this important step towards getting involved in research does not need to be stressful. The following tips can help you build connections, and ultimately, secure a research opportunity.
Reflect & Prepare
Over the past three years, I have developed an interest in studying public interactions between individuals from different backgrounds. As a freshman, I had the opportunity to work for Professor Morrell on the Scholio Project through a research assistant program in my major. Since I was assigned to my professor, I skipped over the step of reaching out and meeting with a potential research advisors/mentors. Once the project ended, I knew I wanted to continue researching similar topics, and knew I needed to begin meeting with professors to discuss personal research endeavors. I was anxious to start, but I decided to approach the whole process with these steps in mind.
First, I took time to think about what area of work I wanted to get involved in and the kind of project I wanted to carry out. I reflected on my own interests, previous knowledge, and experiences and the types of projects I found to be personally valuable and engaging. With this in mind, I emailed professors whose areas of study were closely aligned with my interests, using tips I talked about in my last blog here, to plan a meeting with them.
Share Your Story
I went into the meeting knowing that I wanted to tell the professor about myself. I knew that if I painted a simple picture of who I was and what my research interests were, it would likely lead to a more productive, friendly yet professional, meeting. I did not have to list off every interest of mine, but rather throughout the conversation, I stated why I was interested in their field of work, how my interests connected to them, and brought up their previous research projects that I found listed on their faculty bios or websites.
Listen & Learn
Listen more than you talk. By doing this, I was able to gain insight into the field of current political and psychological research. Going to speak to a professor should be centered around the idea that you want to learn more from them. Ask questions about what they have done in their area of expertise, how their projects are structured, and the research questions they are trying to answer. By listening, you can take a lot away from the meeting and have a better understanding of what research may look like in your field of interest. Additionally, it will show the professor that you are curious and want to learn. Depending on how the meeting with the professor goes, some may offer you a position in their lab or research group, or even ask you if you need an advisor for the project.
Although scary, meetings with professors can be easy going, enjoyable, and a chance for you to grow. They love to see students ask questions and engage in material they are excited about. Thus, this initial meeting can lead to information about research in your specialized field of interest and may even open up many more opportunities that can develop and kickstart your own research. Trust the process and just make sure to be yourself. You got this!
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me!
Brendan Hogan is a junior majoring in Political Science, Psychology, and Philosophy. Click here to learn more about Brendan.