For undergrads: Getting research or internship experience
How can I get research experience as an undergraduate student?
Mason undergrads are encouraged to explore the variety of interdisciplinary neuroscience research opportunities available at the Fairfax and SciTech campuses. You don't have to limit yourself to neuroscience faculty, check the opportunities in Biology, Psychology or even Physics as well. Before approaching a potential mentor, keep a few of these tips in mind:
1. Start early! Begin thinking about the types of experiences you want and what areas of neuroscience interest you in your 1st or 2nd semester. Explore the some of the IPN related labs as well as the IPN faculty bios page to get an idea of the opportunities available. Most labs are looking for a one year commitment, 5-10 hours per week so you'll also need to plan around your academic and work schedules.
2. Do your research on your potential mentors. You want to end up in just the right spot, so make sure that person is doing what you want to do. Read a couple of the lab's publications and think about what you would want to learn in the lab and how you can contribute to the research. Potential mentors expect that you will approach them with a proposed match: you need to already know what they do and show them that you are interested and skilled or willing to learn their thing.
Preparation is important. If you want to help in a neuroinformatics lab, you'll want to have some programming and coding skills (from coursework or other experience). If you want to volunteer in a wet lab, make sure you're working on basic skills in your biology and chemistry labs.
3. Sell yourself. As above, always include what you can contribute to the lab. Make a resume and send it along. Describe what experiences you've had (probably more than you'd expect). Describe what you are interested in learning (hint: what they are doing), and how willing you are to learn new stuff. Although it's easy to send an email, stopping by your instructor's office hours is also a good way to get to know faculty and sell yourself.
4. Take one of the program's research lab courses (NEUR 406 Zebrafish Neurodevelopment Lab or NEUR 407 Electrophysiology lab) if you are not able to find a position in a lab. In these courses, students learn to develop a research question, design an experiment, collect data, carry out analyses, interpret results in addition to learning some basic wet lab skills.