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How much research is necessary to get into a good graduate program?

  1. May 7, 2009 #1
    I'm a biochemistry & molecular biology major...

    My university requires two semesters of research (one during the summer) to graduate with departmental honors. You also have to present your results/conclusions and have your presentation approved by faculty.

    Are these two semesters enough to get into a good graduate program for Biochemistry/Molecular Biology? assuming solid grades/gre/lor...

    I just transferred to a university from community college. I'll be a sophomore in the fall and I have no research experience (other than chem/bio labs). My biochemistry adviser recommended the two semesters I stated above. The research is done with faculty at the university's medical school.

    Is that enough?

    Also, I've read posts from students who say they've done two full years of research, etc.. How do you make time for a research position while carrying a full class load (~17 credits)?

    Is noncredit research less arduous than for-credit research?

    any advice or opinions are appreciated... I'm kind of worried I won't have enough research experience for grad school.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 7, 2009 #2


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    It's hard to really say how much of anything is needed to get into a graduate program because different schools have different evaluation standards, and in the end its a competative process, so there's no formula that will guarantee acceptance.

    Naturally, any research experience you have will help in the admissions process. Research done as part of an honours project will certainly count. If you can get a publication out of it, that's even better.

    Research "experience" itself can be difficult to gauge as well. Some students will essentially come in an do data entry for one hour a week, essentially doing volunteer lab work and not really understanding anthing about the project while others will actively participate in design of the experiement, procure materials, perform the experiment and pefect the methodology, analyze the data and write everthing up. Unfortunately these two scenarios can often come across as looking similar on a CV or grad school application.
  4. May 7, 2009 #3
    Just one more note. Although these 2 types of research look pretty much the same on CV, it would probably look quite different on the recommandation letter.

    And talking about taking 17 cred and trying to do some research
    I have the same thing here. I am taking 18 credit now, while doing research (although it is physics). So my strategy is, to squeeze time out of no where! Come on, a top grad school program is not easy, to say the least. If you want to get into those school, of course you need to make some sacrifices: nothing is free.
  5. May 10, 2009 #4
    maybe i phrased my question wrong....

    is it normal for a student to be accepted into a graduate program with two semesters of research? or is that invariably not enough?
  6. May 10, 2009 #5
    I think you are simply asking the wrong questions.

    There is no set limit for getting into graduate school for how much research you need to have done. I'm certain there are cases on both extremes where people with 2 years of research or no research at all were denied or accepted (respectively).

    Your first post is asking about getting into a good graduate program which is arbitrary in the first place.

    research is just one piece of your CV and not the end all be all of acceptance into a graduate program. You should not be looking for the minimum amount required and also shouldn't be looking to do research simply to the reason of getting into a graduate program. In general I would say doing as much research as possible is the best route as far as it doesn't hurt you as long as you can keep your grades up while you conduct research. Its good to experience different types of research as well so you can get a feel for whether you really want to go into the field you are studying, so in that sense I would recommend having research in different fields/labs/etc.
  7. May 15, 2009 #6
    alright, so my question is: how can anyone find / search for a research opportunity to get involved. as of right now I'm an undergrad student and I hear things from other students like getting internships, research programs etc and I honestly feel lost when they start talking so is there like a website or an academic journal that I can look through and see if can find something, I mean where do I start ? any suggestions ?
  8. May 15, 2009 #7


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    Start by talking to your professors and academic advisors. Let them know that you're interested in doing some research and they can likely direct you to people that are looking for help. You can also talk with senior students and graduate students to see what opportunities they've taken advantage of along the way. Another resource might be your school's career service centre. Although fairly general, these centres will often have information about formal programs for students.
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