FAQs: Hosting Undergraduates in your Lab

Recruiting and Interviewing

Recruiting students:

- Any Harvard-affiliated faculty can host a Harvard undergraduate student in their lab, including faculty at the Harvard Medical School, Harvard Dental School, Harvard Institutes (Ragon, Weiss, Rowland, Dana Farber, etc.), Harvard-affiliated hospitals (Boston Children’s, MGH, McLean Hospital, etc.)

- If you have an Undergraduate Research Opportunity, you are encouraged to contact the Harvard Science Education Office in order to post the opportunity on the undergraduate Science Education website. Our undergraduate research advisor advises hundreds of individual students each semester and can refer students with an interest in your research discipline to you once the position is posted online.

- The undergraduate Science Education Office in the FAS Division of Science organizes an annual Harvard Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Science poster event (HUROS) in November, which is a great opportunity to meet with dozens of undergraduates in one day. You, your postdoctoral scholars or graduate students can represent your research group. For more information about registering for the poster event check the HUROS website.

Interviewing: we recognize your experience in interviewing, below are few tips to consider.

  • Find out why your candidate is interested in doing research, as their motives will be important in other practical aspects: duration, number of hours per week, etc.
     
  • Student background in science, math, statistics and computational skills will help you determine level of preparedness to undertake a research project. Ask what courses they took that had practical components such as lab and what specific skills that are relevant to your research projects students might have acquired through their coursework or work/volunteer experience. For faculty who are not familiar with the Harvard College curriculum, a course syllabus (available from the student) can help you learn more about content of the courses your students took.
     
  • Explain research project(s) for which you are hiring undergraduate students. Note, that undergraduate research project design has to be carefully considered (given student background and amount of mentoring it will take to help student learn lab skills, student availability, duration of the position). Most of our students work on a hypothesis-driven project and not just perform lab tech duties. Listing several potential projects available in your group will allow student to have autonomy in choosing the one they are most passionate about. For more practical aspects on designing student projects, please consult Faculty Handbook. Students need to know what particular lab skills they will be exposed to, model organisms, lab equipment, field work or any other aspects. What safety training will be required to operate equipment or conduct certain set of experiments.
    Note, if you are just interested in a lab tech/research assistant, you can post a research assistant position, with a very clear description of duties and state that it is not an independent research project. These types of positions are most often paid (by the lab, since Harvard fellowships support only hypothesis-driven independent student research). Faculty Aide program can subsidize part of the student stipend for paid research assistants.

Science Education offers series of Mentoring Workshops that provide training on fellowships available to Harvard undergraduates to support their undergraduate research and mentor’s role in supporting application process, how to write descriptive and accurate letters of recommendation, develop undergraduate research projects, set appropriate expectations, and foster effective communication. Workshops use many case-studies to explore these topics in more detail. All Harvard-affiliated researchers are welcome to participate in these free of charge workshops (registration is first come first serve basis).

  • Discuss with the student your expectations: number of hours per week, duration, the type of schedule research project requires, lab meeting attendance policy, journal clubs, etc. These expectations should be summarized in a written agreement and sign by the student.
     
  • Mentoring environment: explain to the student who will be his/her direct day to day mentor. It could be principal investigator, postdoc, lab manager, graduate student or researcher working in the lab. Whether it is 1 mentor or 2 mentors (PI – overall mentor and postdoc for day to day supervision), it is important that the student meets and interviews with them too, introduce your student to other people in the lab as you walk through the lab tour and show lab equipment and any other interesting model systems…
     
  • Logistical considerations: funding/compensation, vocation (note Harvard students do not have housing during the winter and summer breaks, unless they apply for a fellowship or some special program), student exam schedule, transportation to your laboratory.
     
  • Provide information to the student on to when they can expect to hear from you and what are the next steps in the recruitment process.

Compensation and Work Hours

Once you identify a student, please fill out this formWe collect Harvard undergraduate placement data for internal reporting purposes. In addition, students who have been conducting research are often invited to present their research at the biannual Undergraduate Research Spotlight event

Types of work arrangement

Harvard students can either:

  1. Volunteer, this option can range for 3-4 months (one academic term) to 2 terms to 1-2 years. Some students depending on their financial aid situation may need a paid position. Note, that Harvard undergraduates are exempts from the Fair Labor Standards Act because conducting research as unpaid volunteer promotes their educational scholarship. For more information please contact Undergraduate Research Advisor.
     
  2. Receive course-credit (this option is most applicable to the Juniors and Seniors). Please ask your student to contact their concentration (major) advisor to obtain departmental requirements for registering for the course credit and information on how many hours a week students are required to work in the lab by their department (each concentration has different requirements). They have to register before the regular course registration deadline.
     
  3. Do thesis research in your lab. Note that thesis topic has to be approved by the student’s concentration advisor. Check departmental and college deadlines for submitting thesis title and actual thesis (each concentration has specific deadlines).
     
  4. Obtain Harvard fellowships. Harvard offers comprehensive list of fellowships to support Harvard undergraduate researcher stipends. HCRP fellowship is offered during the term time and summer time. During the term most of our students obtain stipend through the HCRP. During the summer PRISE, HCRP, Harvard-Amgen, Herchel-Smith are among key fellowships we encourage our students to apply. Summer programs can offer housing and meals or stipend only. Please encourage your student to allow about 3 weeks to complete fellowship applications, since some of them require 3-5 page scientific proposal and letters of recommendations. HCRP is usually due at the beginning of the term, summer fellowships are due in winter and early spring.
     
  5. Faculty Aide program – pays 50% towards student stipend, this is Faculty-initiated application.
     
  6. Federal Work-Study – pays 50-70% towards student stipend, only for students with special financial aid package, ask your student if they have Federal Work-Study.
     
  7. Mentor pays 100% of the salary. See information below regarding wage ranges.

Proposal writing tips can be found on our website and Digital Student Handbook for Undergraduate Researchers.

Duration and hours per week

We recommend that Freshmen and Sophomores work 6-10 hours per week during academic year, up to 40 hours per week during the summer. For upperclassmen (Juniors and Seniors) 15-20 hours per week, depending on their course load during the academic year and up to 40 hours per week during the summer. We also encourage students to stay in the lab for at least 2 terms, but this depends on individual student interests.

Compensation

Compensation is defined by the individual department that is hiring student, so please consult your local HR department. Student salary guidelines for Federal Work Study students at Harvard as a reference for wage ranges can be found here: https://seo.harvard.edu/fwsp-employers-hiring.

Transportation program provides shuttles or MBTA T passes for Harvard undergraduates conducting research.

Conference presentation grants – Science Education provides limited funding for outstanding students to present their research at national and international conferences.

Research Ethics, Safety and Lab citizenship

Harvard requires all new students conducting research to obtain a Laboratory Safety Training. For more information about research integrity and lab safety training please visit our website.

Please discuss with the student Lab citizenship and direct them to our resources for more information. Digital Student Handbook for Undergraduate Researchers is also a great resource for new and continuing undergraduate researchers in your lab.

For any additional questions faculty and students are encouraged to contact our Undergraduate Research Advisor.

Mentoring Students

Faculty Handbook for Mentoring Undergraduates provides comprehensive information on mentor’s responsibility to the students, guidelines on setting expectations and designing undergraduate research projects, resources when problems arise and more.

FAS Science Education provides a certificate series of intensive undergraduate science mentoring workshops during the Fall and Spring, please check our website for more information: https://lifesciences.fas.harvard.edu/mentoring-workshops

Students are encouraged to showcase their research findings:

  1. Science Education Research Blog: please contact our Undergraduate Research Advisor
  2. Undergraduate Research Spotlight event, which offers selected students to present lightning talks to their peers and faculty
  3. NCRC Conference: national conference that is hosted by Harvard HCURA every January
  4. Conference presentation grants – Science Education provides limited funding for outstanding students to present their research at regional, national and international conferences.

For any additional questions faculty and students are encouraged to contact our Undergraduate Research Advisor.

For Harvard-affiliated Labs

Student schedule: first week of school Harvard College students spend selecting courses, better known as a course shopping and sectioning week. Thus, until the course registration deadline (check Academic Calendar below) most students would not know what their academic schedule is. Midterms, final study periods, spring and winter breaks are also important to consider when working with an undergraduate.

Housing: during the winter and summer breaks students do not have housing (most Harvard College students are out of state), unless they apply under special residential program or have made prior arrangements. De Wolfe summer housing provide room for a fee to students, but they require applications to be made early. Winter recess housing information can be found here. For more information about housing ask students to contact their Residential Dean.

Academic Calendar by School: undergraduates are under the Faculty of Arts and Sciences school.

Transportation program: provides resources for Harvard undergraduates working outside Cambridge campus.

Referring your students for additional help in

Academic advising:

  1. Freshman advisor – each student is assigned a freshman advisor during their first year at Harvard
  2. Sophomore advisor – each student is assigned a sophomore advisor during their second year at Harvard
  3. Concentration (major) advisors help advise  juniors and seniors

Undergraduate Research Advisor supports students in finding research funding, finding a right lab and more. If you are not sure who to contact, undergraduate research advisor can be your first point of contact and help you find right resources.

Bureau of Study Counsel: The BSC supports each student’s unique experience as they learn, grow, and engage in Harvard’s educational opportunities. This includes Peer Tutoring, Reading Course, First Gen Voices, academic counseling and more.

Residential Dean Each House is served by an Allston Burr Resident Dean, who under the direction of the Dean of Harvard College and the Faculty Deans, is responsible for the well-being of the students in that House. The Allston Burr Resident Dean represents House members at the Administrative Board, is the primary liaison to academic departments on behalf of students, and serves as a key resource for students who encounter personal or academic difficulty. The Allston Burr Resident Dean contributes to the House as a scholar and participates fully in the life of the community.

Harvard University Health Services  including mental health counseling
Harvard University Police Department
Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Academic Integrity