You dont have to have reached a specific programme to begin doing reearch – if you’re a first semester biomedical student or medical student, you won’t learn much that’s applicable to research anyway.
Many decide to begin with a project during the summer. A tip is to visit your chosen lab during spring semester a couple of times to mingle a bit with your supervisor and colleagues, and, if there’s time, introduce yourself to the methods you’ll be using during the project.
You can also begin doing research during the semesters. Many, but not everyone (!), who continue doing research, continue doing so during the semesters. The important thing is to not bite off more than one can chew, i.e. not take on more than you can manage, and to not promise your supervisor and lab unrealistic amounts of work. It varies from person to person how many evenings and missed lectures one would be able to sacrifice in the name of research, and that’s perfectly fine. Just be frank and honest with your supervisor and find a lab that suits your level of ambition.
Before looking for a research group, try to figure out what you’re looking for and what you’re interested in. Find a subject you’re passionate about and if you can’t, that’s also fine! Something that’s often forgotten is that research can be much more than pipetting and animal research. As important as finding an area you’re interested in, is the method you think you’d be interested in. Do you want to do lab work, work with animals or compile data from registers? Don’t worry if you don’t have a specific subject that you’re passionate about, it’s often really good to try out a subject and letting the interest grow. It’s however good to motivate why you’re choosing to contact a certain researcher, is it because you’re interested in a certain method or technique they’re using that you’d like to learn more about? Would you maybe like to do research with that particular and research group? Exploring your budding research interest probably won’t happen overnight. For some, it’s obvious. For others, it takes time. There’s no universal solution for everyone and the most important thing is that you figure out what you want – even if it takes some time. Interesting researchers can be found in many ways. Did you have an awesome lecturer during that inspiring lecture? Read some of that person’s articles. Visit some of KIB’s “Get inspired by a professor”. In the end, it’s a tricky to figure out what suits you before you’ve even experienced for real. That’s why we encourage you to contact a lab early on and try it out!
Irrespective of what lab you may be interested in, the first step is to send an email and inform them of your interest. Research is an informal field, expect no advertised job positions where the research groups advertise their interest for possible employment of students.
Researchers also often have a full inbox. Therefore, make sure to give a professional impression from the get-go. Tell them who you are, why you are interested in their research, and something concrete about what you may find in their group (e.g. possibility to explore new areas of research). Do you wish to work in parallel with your semester? A summer project? Thesis work? Or would you like to hear more about their research?
Be prepared on many not responding and that many may respond with a no. However, do not interpret the absence of response that the research group is not interested in a student. It is instead most often due to an overwhelming inbox. E-mail again, once more or twice, or e-mail associates in the research group (e.g. post-docs, PhD students). If that does not work, go to the lab in person! If you then get a no, it may be best that you continue your search with other groups.
In short yes. Everybody started somewhere. Be open about your prior research experience (e.g. none, or extensive) but also inform them of your eagerness to learn new techniques and skills! If the research group accepts you, they will teach you all the necessary methods to become productive in the lab. The best case would be that they see you as an investment, and therefore take the time to teach you from the start such that you can work independently.
Even if you have research experience from one lab, it is uncertain whether the new lab uses the same methods. Thus no lab can expect that students can change labs and start to work independently immediately.
There is an enormous variation. There are as many ways to research as there are research groups. One student can be taught to measure gene expression in cell cultures with qPCR, a different student can be performing behavioural tests on mice, and a third compiling patient data to search for correlations between meat consumption and dementia.
Also the responsibility each student gets varies. A student can become the lead responsible for one project, while a different one works as a research assistant for a different person’s project. Generally, with increasing willingness to work and increasing knowledge of the field, the responsibility you will get will consequently grow. If you feel that the responsibilities you have is not proportional to the amount of work and knowledge you have, mention that to the research group. If that has no effect, you should start planning to leave the group.
Forskningsintroducerande kurs för läkarstudenter (FOLÄK): A course open only to medical students semester 1-4. The course is an excellent way to get an introduction to research in general and it’s often a good way to begin if you don’t know what you’re interested in. You’ll need to find your own lab, but during the semesters, many labs will present their research and the course administration is very helpful with finding one.
Part 1: A 4-week summer project (CSN is offered).
Part 2: An 8-week summer project financed through a 10.000 SEK a month-stipend.
Summer Course in Medical Science: An 8-week summer project including an introductory week with lectures and poster presentations the final week. Financed through a 10.000 SEK a month-stipend. You’ll need to find your own lab.