Undergraduate Research in the Hill Lab
I encourage all interested undergrads to join my lab group. Getting involved in the research being conducted by professors at Auburn University can provide training and experiences beyond anything offered in a classroom. Becoming engaged in a research project gives students a chance to see how science really works. Students get to know the professor and vice versa so that the professor can write more detailed and meaningful recommendations for the students. The student gains skills and insights and the professor and grad students benefit by the assistance that the undergrad provides. If you are considering grad school, then getting undergrad research experiences is essential.
Students can come into my lab either as volunteers or by taking independent research (BIOL4980) for credit. Volunteering can benefit both the student and our lab research, but such help is only worthwhile if we can count on the student. Otherwise, the time it takes us to train a student is not time well spent. So let my grad students and me know how often you can help and be reliable in showing up for the times you agree to. Based on the amount of time you can devote, we can decide what sort of activities are most appropriate. Please realize that while even small time commitments are helpful, we cannot train you to do more important (and often more enjoyable) tasks if we only see you twice a month.
Doing research for credit is a great opportunity for you to learn something valuable. You should realize however that this is not "free credit". In fact, an independent study project should be both rewarding and challenging. For this reason, you should understand that much will be expected of you. How much will depend on how many hours of credit you have arranged for your project, but as a general guideline, you should be prepared to spend about 5 hours per week per credit hour. So, if you take 2 credit hours, we will expect 10 hours per week for 16 weeks or about 160 hours of participation time through the semester. This may include time in the lab entering data or time in the field or lab collecting data. Classroom studies can be prioritized so you can put in 15 hours in one week when you have few exams and then only 5 hours in a week when there are several exams. It is your responsibility to see that your hours are met, and to work out a schedule.
You will be assigned to a graduate student in the lab, who will act as a mentor. This is the person to whom you should go for help first. Realize that if you are new to the lab, you will most likely be given certain projects to do. However, the longer you stick around, the more independent you will become. Hopefully, you will eventually design and complete your own project. It is also your responsibility to keep current on what is going on in the lab. Undergrads are encouraged to attend lab meetings.