Need Help !!!

Peter Herman herman at
Tue Sep 12 04:47:12 EST 1995

(  ) (Youre-mailaddressYourfullname) wrote:
: In article <42vgei$og2$4 at>, 
: 102570.2734 at CompuServe.COM says...
: >
: >I am a undergraduate student in biology.  Some day I hope to go to 
: >graduate school in biochemistry. My grades are good enough but I 
: >am afraid that this may not be enough to get in.  I am looking for 
: >something to set myself apart from the other students.
: ...
: >
: >        Thank you for your time!!!
: >        Patrick R. Jones

: What really got me into graduate school were two things--letters of 
: recommendation and lab experience.  As a work study, I had gotten jobs in 
: research labs on campus.  The jobs taught me skills that the graduate 
: admissions committee thought were beneficial.  Also, my three letters of 
: recommendation came from three professors I worked for, which also made 
: me a good candidate for grad school.
: 	Thus, my advice is to get a job (preferably in a lab) and work 
: hard.

: Tim

As a faculty member who has both written and read more recommendations
than I care to think about, I can say that Tim is right on the mark.  By
working in a lab, you can get to know faculty.  Of course your boss will
know you well, but you also learn to know the faculty in other labs near
yours.  When they write a recommendation, they are in a position to
comment on the things which are relevant to graduate study: are you
responsible, are you careful, are you creative, can you think on your
feet, are you tenacious, can you take advice, can you stick to your guns
if you think that the advice may not be so great! 

There is another major point to consider in working in a lab as a way to
get into grad school.  You have the chance to BE AS SURE AS YOU CAN THAT
To be quite honest, the job market, the pay and the hours stink! 
Those of us in research (at least academic research) do it because we love
it.  Research is not a 9-5 job.  As one of my advisors told me a long time
ago, "If you take an academic job, you have to be prepared to live a
modest existance".   It is an emotional roller coaster.  You will have 
weeks (or even months) when nothing works at all.  You will also have 
periods where you find something new and interesting every day.  If you 
are not wired in such a way that you can't wait to get into the lab to 
see the results and solve the days problems, you are in the wrong field.  
You also want to look at what is happening or has happened to the guy who 
runs the lab.  I have found that in the 8 years I have been a faculty 
member, my time in the lab has dropped from 15-20 hours a week to 1 or 
2.  You have teaching, committees, advising, grant writing, manuscript 
writing, proposal and manuscript reviewing, etc. to take your time.  The 
best part of sabbatical is that I can go into the lab and just work - no 
committe meetings or phone calls!

	Having said all this discouraging stuff, let me also say that I 
absolutely cannot imagine doing anything else with my life!  If you can't 
get a for pay job in a lab, check if you can get academic credit.  At my 
home university (New Mexico State) we have 3 different courses which can 
earn biology elective credit Biol 350 and 450 are course numbers for 
research and 448 is Senior thesis for those who want to do a bit more 
formal writing along with the research.  For all of these, you go and 
talk to a faculty member about working in the lab.  At NMSU, you get 1 hr 
academic credit for 3 hrs in the lab (just like for a lab with a course) 
and can take up to 3 hrs credit (9 lab hours) per term.  Most 
universities have similar opportunities.

	If it goes well, you will get a taste of what it is like to do 
research.  If it doens't turn out to be what you want, you are better off 
to find out while you have a good opportunity to make alternate career plans.


R. Peter Herman				email	Peter.Herman at
Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet		Phone:	+46 18 67 12 20
Inst. f. Markvetenskap			Fax:	+46 18 67 27 95
S750 07 Uppsala, Sweden		

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