Once you find a research lab or project that is interesting to you (we detail how to do this in our below research series blog posts for info on Finding Research and Types of Research), you can send them an email containing a cover letter, resume, and your schedule.
Make sure to state what you are hoping to get out of the lab before committing. Setting the expectations for what you would like your role to be can ensure that you are doing work that you want to do.Be sure to investigate the literature and written work of the labs you hope to be joining before committing. Understanding the research they do can help you to gain a better idea of what your role may be in the lab as a whole. Many UMich labs also have a website that would be helpful for you to look at because it will contain all the different projects and research questions the lab is pursuing as well as possible contact information.
The following flowchart will give you a better idea of the hierarchies in many labs:
If you are interested in joining a lab and want to reach out to them, you can usually just email the PI of the laboratory, unless there is another contact person listed on the website. Below is a good template for writing these emails. Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t get a response from everyone you email, and make sure you have a couple backup labs in mind if you don’t get the one you want. Go to our first research blog post to find an email template to apply for a lab position.
During the first meeting with the lab manager or PI (which may be called an “interview” if you don’t know the professor already personally, or may just be a casual meeting depending on the lab), be sure to state your intentions and expectations . For example, do you want to complete your own independent project in the lab? Are you interested in writing a thesis? Talk to the PI about being able to participate in actual research (designing projects, statistical analysis, writing up results) rather than doing the basic tasks such as cleaning dishes and making solutions. Have a solid idea of what you would like to in the lab. Some labs involve several research aspects: molecular, behavioral, or clinical research, and you will be able to choose specifically which part you want to get more involved in.