Undergraduate Research in Neuroscience

Most Neuroscience labs at Stony Brook accept undergraduates into their laboratories to do research.  However, opportunities may be limited and each laboratory has its own requirements for admission.  So plan ahead!  Here are some steps that will help you get started and find a research mentor:

  • Start early!  Research and research training take time.  Most labs prefer that a student spend at least two semesters on a project.  It's hard to begin a project in your final year; the second or third year, after you have taken at least one relevant course, is usually better. (One way to get your foot in the door earlier and get a look at lab life, is as a paid lab aide.  This probably won't allow you to do your own project - but it may evolve into one.)  Don't plan on starting a project while taking a heavy courseload.  Spending a summer or winter break on campus is often the best way to get a lot done in the lab; you may even be able to find a fellowship that will pay you a stipend for doing research.  A useful source for general information on undergraduate research and fellowships is the URECA website (ws.cc.stonybrook.edu/ureca).
  • Identify specific faculty in your area of interest.  Faculty members are listed, along with their areas of expertise, in departmental and program websites Neuroscientists at Stony Brook include faculty in the Department and in the broader Graduate Program.  Most have their own web pages or websites with research descriptions, publication lists, and contact information.  Explore these; read the research descriptions, maybe do a little extra reading in the area, and think of questions you would like to ask.
  • Contact those faculty members.  All faculty expect to be contacted by undergraduates who are interested in doing research. Contact selected faculty members and ask to meet with them to discuss the possibility of doing research. Email is usually best for a first approach; if you don't get a reply in a few days, follow it up with a phone call, or drop by to ask for an appointment.  Come to any meeting prepared to discuss the research and to describe your own background and scientific interests; bring or send a copy of your transcript (unofficial is OK), and a CV if it includes relevant experience.
  • Don't be discouraged if you get negative or no responses despite a strong transcript.  Each lab has openings for at most a few students, and limits on supervisors' time or research funds can restrict the opportunities in a particular lab.  Try refocusing or broadening your search interests; ask for alternate recommendations; talk to course instructors or your fellow students. 

Neurobiology students who have most recently been named "URECA student of the month":