Students leave their research for a variety of reasons, such as change in research interests, not enough time, or if the dynamics between their advisor or lab group aren’t right.
Not all research projects work out
Be truthful with yourself. If you feel you can no longer commit to your research for whatever reason, it is ok to either stop or switch to something else. There are several resources you can contact to discuss your situation, such as your academic advisor or an undergraduate research advisor from your college. They are there to help you make your transition.
Pros / Cons of switching projects or labs
You may want to plan to work on several projects during your time at Cornell. If you are headed for a career in research, your undergraduate years are an excellent time to get several research experiences so you can make decisions about the field or topic that you want to pursue in graduate school. Or, you may want to stay in one group for several years, with the hope that your work may be included in a publication. There is no right or wrong way-your commitment needs to fit your needs.
If you decide to pursue another opportunity, follow these guidelines.
- Finish out the semester.
- Talk to the head of the research group- not just the person that you are directly working with. Be appreciative of the opportunity they have given you!
- Explain that you want to explore something else- another field, different research approach.
- Ask if they would like help finding another student to work on the project.
Getting along in a research group
- Find out what the system for ordering supplies is and ask what your responsibility is.
- If a common reagent runs low or runs out – MAKE more!
- If you break something or find something broken – Tell someone!
- Don’t bother people who are in the middle of an experiment unless their body language indicates it is OK.
- Plan ahead when you need help and make appointments to talk to people.
- Act interested and take notes when someone is teaching you how to do something.
- Don’t use other people’s solutions without asking.
- Clean up your messes, and others if you have time!
- Ask people to help you – don’t try to order them around.
- Don’t assume that other people will be willing or able to drop everything and help you immediately.
Tips for communicating with faculty
- Make the purpose of your meeting clear at the time you arrange an appointment.
- Make arrangements according to the professor’s preference.
- Be prepared to arrange the date/time via a support staff person or by email with the professor.
- Be prepared to stop by the professor’s office during office hours.
- Remember, courtesy and polite persistence are keys to success.
It’s ok to pursue research outside your major!
Cornell, with a strong focus on research, has ample opportunities to pursue any and all interests. Pursuing research outside of your major and department is a great chance to explore and become well-rounded. Often, you’ll find the techniques and principles applied in one field relate to another. Interdisciplinary synthesis is a powerful tool. It’s a skill you’ll use once you leave Cornell.
Looking for more advice?
Cornell Career Services launched the newest module in the Career Development Toolkit: Research. This module explores how research is conducted in various disciplines and how to get involved. It covers identifying skills and how to document them, as well as seeking funding and sharing results. Check it out today!