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I'm a sophomore biology major. I'd like to be in a research lab, but am willing to do anything related to my major: interning for environmental consulting, working for the state epa, etc. The issue is EVERYTHING I've applied to and every professor I've emailed has rejected/ignored me. I'm staring down a long, empty, lonely summer at the same minimum wage job I had last year. I'm panicked and depressed at the prospect. Please help. What do I do? Is it too late to find something?

Edited to add: I have 2 weeks until I'm done with this semester and summer starts

  • Well, when does summer start? You still have 8 weeks here, but you might have one where you're at – Azor Ahai Apr 23 at 20:38
  • Have you gotten any feedback from the rejections? You might be seen as just too inexperienced given your second year status. People may just think they will need to give you too much supervision for the return. – Buffy Apr 23 at 20:39
  • I have not gotten any feedback from rejections. Most programs don't ever respond or send a generic email saying I wasn't selected. Only one program explicitly told me why I was rejected, and it's actually because I was "overqualified" in a sense- they preferenced giving opportunities to people from 2 year institutions or community colleges. The professors don't even reject me they just ignore my emails. – Bookcollector3 Apr 23 at 20:42
  • Do professors post available jobs for undergrads at your institution? They do at mine and when my lab wants someone we advertise it; if we aren't advertising we probably don't have a spot for anyone. Also many of the summer students we take on are people who did a for-credit research project in the lab for a semester. A summer-only student isn't really in the lab long enough to do anything useful. – Bryan Krause Apr 23 at 20:48
  • Professors do not post available jobs. I've seen only one professor post a job, and when I emailed him about it he confessed he would fill it only with students from his class. Do you think if I started emailing professors indicating I'd like to continue in the lab into fall semester I'd get more interest? – Bookcollector3 Apr 23 at 20:53
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How are you writing your emails? Make a list of your interests and match it to professors and their area of research. Be clear when you email them as in:

  1. Introduce yourself succinctly and explain what your technical/major related background is, what your interests are (ideally match this with the lab). Perhaps related classwork/projects would fit here.

  2. Read up the research the professor/lab has done, even if you don't understand everything. Mention specifically what papers/projects interested you in the email.

  3. Ask to have a conversation with the professor, i.e "I'd like to learn more about x and the lab's work in y, would you have time to meet to discuss this blah blah".

Overall, keep the email short but make sure each sentence has a purpose. You might not always get a response, or maybe they won't have space and only have time for a conversation. But hey, you at least made a connection and can always try another professor after. Maybe stagger your emails from your first pick to second etc, and you could title it as something related to 'interested in undergrad research blah blah'.

Worst comes to worst, be specific about the classes that you take in an upcoming semester. Pick professors whose labs you want to work in and work hard, go to office hours etc. I can't see you failing in that scenario. Depending on your major, perhaps you could also work on a personal project during the summer and be able to showcase the project/skill in the upcoming school semester.

Lastly to add I'm not a professor, but I maybe wouldn't hire/accept a summer-only student unless they already had some skills. Its just a fact that when you're earlier in your major, it takes longer for you to get up to speed and running. Something that could take you a week will take someone a day maybe. Professors know that and are willing to invest in the student, but you in turn should be willing to return that investment, and show that you are willing to work during the year etc

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