Our lab group has a strong commitment to supporting undergraduates involved in independent research. Since our lab’s founding in 2003, our Cornell undergraduates have generated many impressive honors theses along with 30+ peer-reviewed scientific papers, of which the majority were first-authored by the undergraduate scholar. Most of our undergraduate alumni have gone on to professional careers in science or education, and more than 10 have been awarded prestigious Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation.
We are best suited for undergraduates who have a very strong intrinsic interest in the topics and systems we specifically study. We are not as well set up for general laboratory training or entry-level internships without a directed research focus. Interning here is a substantial time commitment, as our undergraduates typically undertake independent research projects that become honors theses. Most people start out by interning in the laboratory to learn about the kind of work we do and gain experience with basic laboratory and analytical techniques. Over time, a typical student’s interests coalesce towards a more focused research question, often one that is related to projects that are already underway in the laboratory. As we support a large group of researchers with a diverse set of projects, thesis topics can be highly varied. Some students work highly independently on projects they originate, whereas many work more closely with a more experienced research mentor from within our group.
Our goal for honors students is to expose them to the full research process, from project conception and design through data acquisition and analysis to writing up their project as a formal paper submitted to a scientific journal.
We have a few additional rules-of-thumb about undergraduate projects:
• Research is fundamentally time-intensive. You will need to be able to dedicate 8-10 hours a week on a very regular basis during the academic semesters. The ability to work longer hours over the semester breaks is also a big help.
• We do not encourage volunteering during the Fall and Spring academic semesters. Instead, all undergraduates working in our lab must be registered for research credits, or (less commonly) receive wages from us or another Cornell research program.
• We especially welcome inquiries from students who are in their first or second years at Cornell, because starting early gives more time to learn techniques and apply them to a research topic.
• We expect student interns to make a strong effort to arrange their class schedule such that they can participate in our regular lab meetings held on Thursdays 3:30-5:00 at the Lab of Ornithology, as those meetings are an important forum for intellectual dialogue and professional training.