During the Master’s program in Biomedicine, we are expected to conduct projects of varying duration. I have listed some of the roadblocks I faced and how I dealt with them while looking for project positions.
Where to begin?
If you have absolutely no idea where to start looking or what to look for, do not dive into the KI website. It is going to hit you in the face with a hundred research groups that are all doing super cool science. You will end up flustered.
Begin by noting down the professors that are a part of your course. During the first semester, you will come across many lectures and most of them will also provide insight into the current work being conducted in the lab. If that is of interest to you, talk to the professor after class and find out if there are any possibilities of doing a project there. They are usually casual in such environments and you would get alot of information without putting in too much effort.
If the work as such is not your type but you are somewhat inclined to the subject, look up the department they are in. You will find labs that work on the same area but have different projects and one of it could be of interest to you!
Talk to the course leaders. They have probably been in KI for many years now and know most of the group leaders in person and also have a fair idea of their research. I spoke to Dr Margareta Wilhelm and she gave me a list of labs that would be willing to take me based on my background. I used her list for all three projects and it has worked perfectly for me 🙂
Your classmates that have completed their bachelor’s thesis at KI are also a great source of information (they will even tell you if the lab is fun and the members are nice 😉 ) So reach out to people around you and get an idea of a few names that you could look up.
Now is the time to open ki.se
Not all the research groups listed have a description. Oops!
If you are new to the field and are not already aware of the names involved, it could be a bit tricky because the descriptions are not available in the website.
An ideal way to solve this would be by looking up the PI’s name on pubmed and reading the recent articles that pop up. Ofcourse that takes ALOT of time! Is there a quick way around it? YESSS!!!!
- Look them up on researchgate. There is almost always a description.
- You could get in touch with the PhD students in the lab. It would be a bit more easier on your nerves to talk to a student rather than a highly accomplished professor. I was even able to get straightforward answers about all the research methodologies they use and if they needed master’s students at the moment.
- The department’s annual report. If you are lucky, you might find this in the department’s website and it will contain up to date information about the projects.
The actual test- Contact the group leader
Do not send them a 1000 word motivation letter explaining how the star wars movie you watched as a kid inspired you to become a scientist and cure diseases. Each PI gets atleast 30 emails everyday from students across the world. They are not going to read your 1000 word essay no matter how good it is!
Mention briefly why you want to work in their group. If you know some techniques that are routinely used in the lab, include that. It will help you get noticed.
I never got a reply to emails that I sent out on weekends. I have no idea what the reason is. The same email I sent on a weekday received a quick response. It does not hurt to send a second mail (or even a third). Maybe the first one you sent was never opened!
Different ways have worked for different people and these are based completely on my experience. But whatever route you choose, remember that you have probably traveled half-way across the world, lived far away from home, to be able to study in one of the best research institutions. The projects are an integral part of your life here and do not make a compromise on that just because you are too pressed for time, or too lazy or too shy.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org