I am currently a second year (final semester) undergraduate enrolled in Nagoya University's G30 program. After I graduate, I intend pursue a PhD in the chemical sciences, and I am looking to apply to universities in the United States and the UK. So far, I have been doing well academically--I'm at the top of my class and have cumulative GPA of 4.08/4.3.
Unfortunately, till date I haven't been able to secure any research experience whatsoever in my university, and not for lack of trying. I have approached research groups in my departments whose work I found interesting, but have been turned down by all of them. The rules prevent them from taking on undergraduates students who are not in their 4th year, and they have stuck by them adamantly.
I do get to work on a research project in my fourth year as part of my graduation requirement, however, I do find it disheartening that I can't start early.
Regardless, I am still approaching people, looking for a break and also looking into other avenues outside of university.
However, what if nothing works out--would one year of research experience be sufficient? Personally, I don't think it is enough to prepare me well for graduate school. Moreover, I am concerned about how an admissions committee will view this lack of of research experience?
Additionally, in the UK, most universities that I am interested in encourage applicants to get in touch with faculty/potential advisors before the make a formal application. By my estimate, I ought to be doing this sometime during my third (early 6th semester) year, and thus would have had probably little to no experience conducting research in a laboratory. How can I overcome this potential handicap, and get them to take me seriously?