Disclaimer: This article is directed towards Science students – especially Biology or Life Sciences.
Once you start third year, if you’re in a specialization that requires a thesis project or decide to do a thesis it is important to think of what areas you’re interested in researching. McMaster has a huge variety of professors who conduct research in many fields. McMaster also has many hospital sites (McMaster University Medical Centre, Henderson Hospital, Hamilton General, Chedoke Hospital, etc) with primary investigators in a range of fields.
Once you’ve narrowed down your field of interest, you should look-up potential supervisors for your project. The biology department typically has a list of eligible supervisors posted on their webpage around January (http://www.biology.mcmaster. ca/). For Biology 4C09 Students, if your supervisor isn’t from the biology department, then you’ll also need a co-supervisor who is part of the department. Just a note, if a professor is on sabbatical leave, they may not be willing to take on new students.
Make sure that you read up on your supervisor’s research. Spending a year on a project and researching in a field that doesn’t interest you at all will be awful. Be sure that their research interests align with yours. If they use fruit flies in most of their studies and you’re deathly afraid of bugs, you might want to search for a different supervisor.
Contacting a professor:
The easiest way is e-mail them. When you contact them, be sure to have a copy of your marks. A screen cap of your degree audit (available on MUGSI) is sufficient. Also, you should include a copy of your resume. You might want to include a bit on why you like their research just to show that you’re interested. Professors like talking about their research. If your supervisor likes your resume and marks, then they’ll request an interview. Typically people contact professors from late January up to late March/April. However, if you’re going for a competitive supervisor, then it’s important to contact them earlier.
It’s a good idea to bring an extra copy of your marks and resume, just in case the supervisor has lost yours. Be professional. The usual things: dress well, ensure that you’re slightly knowledgeable about their research, and show up on time. Ask questions about their research and their expectations of you. Some supervisors want their thesis students to work in their lab over the summer.
Try to tour the lab and meet the graduate students to see how well you “mesh” with them. This is a good time for gauging whether you’d enjoy the environment. You’ll likely be in the lab around 20-25 hours per week (minimum, for a wet lab), so make sure that you’ll be comfortable working there for 8 months. Some professors are more interactive with their students whereas others see their students once or twice every month. If you need interaction, try not to pick a supervisor who delegates all of the interaction to their graduate students.
For more information, the Biology Society usually holds a thesis session for undergraduate biology students. It’s a good idea to attend for new updates and to mingle with potential supervisors afterwards.
I would also recommend taking Science 2C00, the noncredit course. It covers topics like resume writing and critiquing, writing cover letters, interview skills and whatnot! Also, when you buy the course ware, it's incredibly helpful for future reference in terms of a resume checklist and the like.
Mary Keyes CA 2013-2014
Hons. Biology and Pharmacology V
I was wondering if your contacting the professor u are interested in for the first time...is it ok to just send an email saying you have viewed their work and are interested in it and request for a meeting or appointment to talk to them personally about it? Then attach your resume and transcript to the email? or is it necessary to read their papers and mention some of them when emailing because you really don't know if they are even taking on students for the upcoming year so I'm not sure how productive that is.
And if anyone could give pointers on what to take to the interview and what sort of questions they ask, it would be greatly appreciated! Thanks =)
If your transcript doesn't help you, don't include it. It's a good idea to at least include your CA, but if you have some bad grades on your transcript that you'd rather the prof not see, don't include it. If the prof wants to see your transcript, they'll ask.
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