Do undergraduate research in the Poly-PEDAL Laboratory!

Students need to develop critical thinking and learn by doing. The reason why I am at Cal today is that a professor gave me a chance as an undergraduate to do research – to discover things that no one has ever known before. Cal students should experience the thrill of discovery. I am interested in students from a wide variety of backgrounds – including biology, engineering, computer science, mathematics, and art.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Benefits to Students – Future careers
Expectations and Qualifications
Can I receive course credit doing research?
How to get involved in research as an undergraduate
Research Funding for Cal Undergrads
Previous Undergraduate Student Research in the Poly-PEDAL Lab
Undergraduate student information

The benefits of getting involved in research

1. Critical Thinking

Most importantly, if you do research you will develop your critical thinking skills. These will serve you for the rest of your life in any career. Memorizing an encylopedia of facts is becoming less and less valuable, since they are at a touch of a finger. Creativity and problem solving are where its at in rapidly changing times.

2. Importance of evidence
You will gain an appreciation of where all the information in your textbook comes from and how certain you should be of its truth. You will learn how to evaluate evidence. You will learn how to use the library and the World Wide Web so that you can find data that will keep you on the cutting edge in your field forever.

3. Get published
You could get published! Many students have completed projects and put their results in some of the best journals in the world.

4. Learn to communicate
You could give a talk at a national or international scientific meeting.

5. Letter of recommendation
I can actually write you a letter of recommendation because I will know who you are and what you can do. Your letter will be unique and will increase your chances of acceptance into the program of your choice.

6. Strengthen your future applications
Your application and interviews will be unique

7. Learn new skills
Learn how to use computers, computer programs (spreadsheet, graphing, calculating), data acquisitions systems, high speed video cameras and much more.

8. Its really fun.

Most Common Next Steps after Undegraduate Research in the Poly-PEDAL Lab

(click here for a partial list of what my former students are doing).

1. Professional Schools

Medical school
Dental school
Veterinary School

2. Graduate School

3. Computer programming

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Qualifications and Expectations

I am most interested in very dedicated students that will balance their classes and research. I know you will “dissappear” during midterms and finals.
Unfortunately, we can NOT take the time to train undergraduate students who are not committed and do not stay with the laboratory for extended lengths of time.
The longer the better. One semester is usually insufficient. One year and the summer are better. Many of my BEST students enter the lab in their junior year, do research their senior year, graduate and then do research for one more year after graduation. The earlier you start the better. The more years you work in the Poly-PEDAL the more we all can benefit.
Remember you most often have little experience compared to post-docs and graduate students. The lack of committment and experience are the major reasons why many professors do not allow undergraduates to conduct research. My undergraduate program works because not one of the 50 or so students I have had thus far has left the lab early with a subpar effort. One student can ruin it for everyone else. Students who are not committed and just want a letter of recommendation need not apply.
I don’t require any course to be able to work in the lab.

Taking any of the following courses would be helpful:

IB 100C Physiology, Structure and Biomechanics
IB 148 Comparative Animal Physiology

IB 135 The Mechanics of Organisms

IB 150 Physiological Ecology

IB 150L Physiological Ecology Laboratory

IB 132 Survey of Human Physiology

IB 132L Laboratory of Mammalian Physiology

IB 144 Animals Behavior

Human Biodynamics (HB) 101 Muscle Biology and Plasticity

HB 103 Musculoskeletal Biomechanics

HB 104 Locomotion Biomechanics

HB 105A/B Exercise Physiology

HB 108 Neuromuscular Fatigue

HB 110 Motor Control

HB 201 Seminar in Kinesiology and Body Mechanics

HB 204 Seminar in Locomotion Energetics and Biomechanics

Computer science



Skills or knowledge that we find most helpful include: computer programming (C++), UNIX, Mac OS and Windows OS operation, image processing, electronics, WWW design.

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Course Credit

Yes, you can receive course credit for conducting undergraduate research! You can take either 199 Supervised Independent Study and Research or 196A/B Thesis Course (Honors Research).

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How to get involved in research as an undergraduate

If you are thinking about going to graduate school or other professional school, acquiring research skills as an undergraduate will make you a much more competitive and desirable applicant than other students who have no research experience. In addition, getting involved in research will expose you to what it’s like to be a graduate student, researcher, and/or professor and will help you decide if you enjoy designing studies, collecting and analyzing data, etc.

But how do you get research experience as an undergraduate? Think back to the classes you have taken. Do you have any professors whose course you really enjoyed? Did they talk about the research they conduct in their own laboratory? Or perhaps you read an interesting article from a professor at your university. (It is not necessary to have taken one of his/her classes.) While it is not essential that you work for someone whose research area you think you would like to do your own projects in as a graduate student, it does help. For example, an Engineering student may want to work in a Biology biomechanics lab.

First of all, read a couple articles written by the professors you might like to work for. Doing background reading will impress them and show that you are seriously interested in joining their research lab. Secondly, send the professors a resume and cover letter. In your letter, mention the articles you have read and what it is about their work that interests you. Include information such as your GPA and the courses you have taken. Let them know that you will be contacting them in the near future to find out if they are in need of a research assistant, either as a volunteer or as a paid assistant. If they do not need a undergraduate researcher at this time, ask them if they could refer you to someone else. Call them a few days after they will have received your letter.

Be aware that often undergraduate research assistants do a lot of tedious grunt work. You will not be conducting your very own project. Keep in mind that learning research skills is what is most important. Some of the tasks may be boring (e.g., number crunching), but they are necessary to run a research program. However, the longer you work in a lab and acquire skills and prove to the more experienced researchers that you are a reliable and committed assistant, the more challenging assignments they will give you.

An added advantage of working in a research lab is that the professor(s) you work with will be better able to write you a letter of recommendation that describes your potential for succeeding in graduate school. S/he will be much more familiar with you as a person, and with your research skills and capabilities, than if you had just received an “A” in their class.

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Research Funding for Undergraduates

You can earn money for doing research! You can apply for funding from a variety of sources:

Undergraduate Research at Berkeley (A comprehensive list of funding available at UCB.)
American Physiological Society

Berkeley Beckman Scholars program

Biology Fellows Program – Funded by Howard Hughes

Chevron Undergraduate Research Program Awards

David Scholars Program

Haas Scholars Program

McNair Scholars Program

Miller Scholars Program

Undergraduate Research Appentice Program -URAP

Presidential Undergraduate Fellowships – PUFs

Research for Undergraduate Education – NSF REU’s

AND… My own research grants

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General Information

Check the Integrative Biology Undergraduate Student Guide (updated infrequently) for information specific to the department.

Berkeley’s WWW Site also has considerable information.

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