Research at UCLA
In your freshman year, start going to office hours with your professor or teaching assistant (TA) on a regular basis. Introduce yourself to the professor or TA, ask questions about the course material, or even about the professor's own research. Keep doing this throughout the next four years. This method will allow you to stand out to your instructors, and increase your habit of asking questions and participating in your own education. Start volunteering in a laboratory or a hospital/clinic setting. Current surveys show that it is not necessarily the quantity or length of time that you spend volunteering in one location, but the quality of your experiences (including many different types of experiences) that count. All of these experiences will be resume-worthy by the time you apply to graduate or professional schools.
In your sophomore year, determine with whom you want to work to start an SRP project. For more information about SRP (Student Research Program), contact the SRP office in Undergraduate Research Center at 2121 Life Science Building, 310-794-4227, http://www.ugresearchsci.ucla.edu). Additional information is located on the SRP website at www.college.ucla.edu/up/SRP. Many, if not most, faculty prefer that students participate in SRP projects in their labs to learn basic procedures before they move on to do research for credit (199 units). Choosing a sponsor can be accomplished by following these guidelines: 1) Pick up a faculty brochure or listing of faculty research interests from the various department offices or on-line via the SRP website listed above; 2) Narrow down your choices to around five professors within a couple different research areas; 3) Go to the Biomedical Library and look up two or three recent publications by each professor on your list and read them to see if they interest you; and 4) Contact the professors that interest you by mail, email or by phone. The letter or email should include an introduction, and mention the particular articles from that professor that you found interesting. If you send a letter, include a resume, transcript and DPR if you can. Mention in the letter or email that you will be calling to follow up with the professor in a few days to discuss your possible participation in the laboratory as an SRP student. Then call the potential sponsors and set up appointments to meet with them.
In your junior year, you might be continuing with SRP work, or you might be going on to begin a 196 Research Apprenticeship. (Consult with your departmental counselor about 196 rules and enrollment procedures). If you are a transfer student, see the procedures above to begin volunteer work and to choose a sponsor for your research.
In your senior year, you can begin a 199, or 198A/B for Departmental Honors.or continue your involvement in a particular lab. Students fulfilling an upper division Phy Sci Elective with a 199 must take it for 4 units. Four units from 198A/B can be aplied to the major. Remember that while only 4 units of 199 are applicable towards the major, the College allows you to complete a total of 16 units of 199 toward your total units for the degree. Therefore, if you are happy with your laboratory situation, you might want to consider staying on past your first couple of quarters. The more extensive your involvement with a particular instructor and laboratory, the greater the likelihood of a meaningful letter of recommendation.