How to Run an Undergraduate Research Lab Presented by

How to Run an
Undergraduate Research
Presented by
Dr. Nicholas Salter
Associate Professor of Psychology, SSHS
What Do You Want?
What do you want out of your undergraduate
research lab?
What goals do you hope to accomplish with this
Design your lab to fit these goals!
Undergraduate students aren’t as excited about
“research” as we are!
What do we do?
Give Them What They
Give Them What They
Make it a social experience for them (as well as a
scholarly one)!
Fun stuff:
Check-ins or ice-breakers at every meeting
Social events (example: having lunch together)
Academic stuff:
Career advice sessions
Research skills training
In general:
Always have them working together!
Getting Started
Start with a website
Helps you organize your thoughts and goals
It legitimizes you
Advertisement: to potential students and others
Lab members can use it to shows others what they’re
doing at school
Getting Started
Make it feel legitimate
Ask them to “apply” to join
the lab
Have regular (or regular-ish)
Stick to a schedule
Create short-term and longterm goals
What Can They Do?
There are some research skills and activities they just
aren’t ready for yet at the undergraduate level.
There are some research skills and activities that it
would be quicker for you to do than for you to train
them to do.
You’ll need to think carefully
about what you ask of your lab
What Can They Do?
Literature reviews
Have them find articles relevant to the topic for you to read
and write about later.
Data analysis
They may not know how to analyze data, but pair them up
and have them work together with you there.
Creating study materials
Finding published scales, developing manipulations,
creating online surveys, etc.
“Mindless” tasks
Typing up references, finding PDFs, transcribing qualitative
data, etc.
Selecting who will join your lab
Consider how many team members you want
Will you recruit via word of mouth, or will you send an
email to all majors?
Consider who you want
Do you want upper-year experienced students, or loweryear students who will be around for awhile?
Consider what they’ll need to do to apply
Will they just ask you to join the lab?
Will they submit an application?
Will they submit a work sample?
Managing your workload
This can a be a ton of work (and time) for you!
Consider ways to reduce your workload
Assign a “lab manager” to help with some tasks
Schedule days for them to present/lead a discussion
Take days off!
Keeping them motivated and energized
As the semester goes on, their schedules will wear
them down – they will start to run out of steam.
Consider ways to keep them motivated and energized
Design your lab to make it feel like a formal commitment
Design the lab schedule to accommodate their schedules
Always give them ownership of the projects
Keep in mind: guide them, but gently – be flexible!
Keep the lab running after they graduate
They will leave (either because of graduation or
because of new time commitments) – but that doesn’t
mean your lab has to end!
However, succession planning is key!
Always be thinking about who will be sticking around
next year.
Try to ensure there is overlap so they can learn from each
Don’t wait until the last minute to think about your team
for next year!
Students are the best part of our job! Why
not capitalize on this and bring them in to
our research?
It can be a great experience for everyone