If you’re one of those people itching to get into a lab, hoping to jump start your future in researching, or strengthen their extracurricular section then volunteering your time at a lab may be the right option for you. As a young high school student, your options are limited, but this guide could help you on your path to getting a mentor for lab work and researching.
One of the most valuable things you can take from getting a mentor is all the experience that can be taken from it. Working in a lab, even just entering data, can give you a small taste of what majoring in a field like that can be. All that hard work translate more than something to talk to when applying to college. Under the right guidance you could find your life passion, new friends, and future connections if you keep in contact with your mentor. It also creates good work ethics and promotes time management skills.
Finding a Mentor
While the task may seem difficult, finding a possible mentor can be done. Start off by looking at local lab facilities or colleges with laboratories. Sometimes lab mentors may be professors, their contact information (phone number, email, and department) should be under a ‘staff/faculty’ section on a webpage. Find what you’re interested in, and then you can start planning for contacting.
Things to do before contacting a possible candidate can be reading up on past research, familiarizing yourself with their work, talking to others who’ve worked under their guidance to get a feel for who they are. Doing these things can show dedication and interest, two highly valued skills, which will make saying ‘no’ a less likable. To be young, willing to put in a few hours each week to gain experience, and show interest are good qualities to have.
Email is Your Friend
For those of us who experience social anxiety, going up to a potential mentor and facing the possibility of rejection may seem a bit frightening. Don’t let that stop you completely, if you’re nervous, it’s perfectly acceptable to send an email (usually their contact information). If it’s a particularly busy time, don’t be offended if it takes a week or two for response. Remember that they are not obligated to respond to you, so don’t put all your eggs into one basket, and look for other potential mentors while you’re waiting for response.
Much like emails, phone calls can lessen the stress of asking someone for the chance to volunteer for them. For people will busy schedules, this may be the right fit for you. It offers a quicker response time, gives both people more flexible time schedules, and can add a personal touch compared to what an email can provide.
Real Life Meet Ups
Meeting someone in real life does have it’s benefits. It’s usually better to contact beforehand, if they teach classes, ask to sit in before approaching. Have your pitch ready, maybe talk about some of their previous work, and ask if you can volunteer some of your time at their lab for first-hand experience. Don’t be disheartened if they reject your offer, be respectful, and maybe ask if they know any of their colleagues who would be willing to take on a high school student volunteer.
If you want to take it a step further, you can compete in science fairs or competitions based on your research done (with consent with your mentor). Of course, if you do find a researching position as a volunteer don’t just do it to compete. Continue your hard work with perseverance and dedication.