Finding a Lab

Step 1: Search for a lab. The best method is to start your search on the web. Here are some helpful links:

  • Google or PubMed is a great way to find a lab! Enter your topic of interest plus “Harvard”, so for example, “autism Harvard”. And look at the website or last author on the articles that appear.
  • You might check out Harvard's Catalyst site, which helps match researchers with Harvard labs. The site has some quirks, but one great feature is that you can refine your search to a specific location such as "MGH". You can try searching with key words here:

This is not a comprehensive list. Students have found labs in the psych, chem, and engineering departments. Feel free to search and let us know when you decide.

In addition to these online resources, Margaret Lynch, our Undergraduate Research Advisor is available to meet with students who are early in their lab search. Check out the resources on the “Research Advising” website.

Step 2: Generate a list of labs and make contact.

We recommend that you identify anywhere from 3-10 labs that interest you. If you’d like help refining your list or would like input on the labs you have selected, Dr. Draft or Dr. Magnotti will be happy to go over your list in a meeting. You may also wish to talk to students in those labs.

When you are ready to contact a lab, you should send an email to the research director (also called lab head or “PI” – principal investigator). You should first read these very helpful tips provided on the Life Sciences Research page that talk about how to find and approach labs.

It is typical for students to contact several labs at a time (and you may not hear back from each one). If you don’t hear back after your first email, send another email a week later. Often PIs miss the first email. Ideally a lab head will respond by inviting you to come by the lab for a meeting where you can discuss potential projects. If you unsure about which lab is best for you, it is ideal to meet with at least 2 different lab heads before making your decision.

Step 3: Begin your research.

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Once you settle on a lab, you can begin your research. Some students choose to volunteer in the lab (anywhere from 5-15 hours per week). Starting in your junior spring you can receive course credit for your lab work by enrolling in Neurobiology 91. You may instead apply to be paid by the Harvard College Research Program (which funds during term time as well as over the summer: check the funding deadlines).