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I was fortunate enough to get a position as a researcher for the Mayo Clinic's SURF Program this year. My PI's lab focus is on the the immune system's role in CNS axonal and neuronal injury, specifically through the lens of how innate and adaptive immune effectors interact w/ infected neurons.

Although I do research under a professor at my college and I volunteered for a state university lab during the previous summer, this is my first REU/SURF opportunity, and I REALLY want to make a good impression. Here are my questions:

What are the do's and don't's in terms of being a skilled and efficient researcher?

Since I am still an undergrad, I know that I will be a less useful asset to the lab than a grad student or post-doc, but what can I do as an undergrad to not burden my colleagues and PI?

Thank you all for your help! Wishing you all the very best!

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closed as off-topic by biogirl, terdon, Chris, jarlemag, WYSIWYG Mar 7 '14 at 10:01

  • This question does not appear to be about biology within the scope defined in the help center.
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This question appears to be off-topic because it is more suitable for academia. – biogirl Mar 7 '14 at 5:32
This is indeed off topic. However, what can you do? Learn. That's all that will be expected of you. – terdon Mar 7 '14 at 6:19

Ask plenty of questions and write everything down. If you do not write notes when someone is explaining something to you, it will be embarrassing to go back and ask them a second time to explain it again. Before you get to the lab I would locate/Ask for review articles related to the project. Realize that you will likely shadowing a senior person while you are there, adapt to their schedule. Don't spend your incubation times face booking. Use this time to build relationships with others in the lab and on your floor and try to absorb as much information about the way the world of science works. Speaking from personal experience the small things you learn there may be insignificant but may come to be important to you in the future. If you have your own project, realize that it will probably be a small one attached to a bigger project another lab member is working on. Thats a good thing, because your time there is not long enough to get into something complicated. A simple, clear, and focused question will be key to your success.

What you should take away from the experience is not necessarily something that will amount to publication, but the actually experience in the actual process of designing experiments, performing them, and analyzing data. Assuming you are doing this to help prepare you to go on to work on a graduate degree in your favorite area of biology then remember that this is here to help you get to the next level. Programs like this allow you to demonstrate that you understand what it takes to perform graduate-level work, and potentially become a successful scientist one day.

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Another thing: Take advise from people which have more experience than you, but also question things (not everything though). The last thing is especially important to understand what you are doing. – Chris Mar 7 '14 at 7:33

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