Advice and expectations for undergrads

Welcome to the Hellmann Lab! Undergraduate researchers are a critical component of our research group. We have very high expectations for our students, and we are dedicated to providing an enriching undergraduate research experience. Each student will participate in a larger project and explore her own independent subproject. This provides students with a big-picture perspective and something to call their own. After a student has worked one or more semesters in the lab, she can take on increasingly independent research, including an honors thesis.

One of the most exciting things about science is that everyone in the lab, at all levels of education, can make important discoveries and contribute new and exciting ideas—even undergrads! To make this happen, you need to work hard and follow your passion and intuition. You also need to speak up and interact with others. Collaboration and critique are the lifeblood of innovative research—so talk regularly with your lab mates and mentors, and listen to their suggestions and criticisms. Neither your day-to-day mentor nor Dr. Hellmann will have all of the right answers. Your goal should be to help discover new science in collaboration with us.

While you are a student with the Hellmann Lab, we expect you to:

  1. Develop a set of objectives at the beginning of the semester with your supervisor/mentor. These should be written down, and Prof. Hellmann should be consulted.
  2. Work closely with your supervisor; we expect at least weekly communication between student and supervisor, including regular consultation with Prof. Hellmann.
  3. Alert your supervisor of any problems—this is critical if you are handling data or working at the bench.
  4. Make a schedule and stick to it (with flexibility, of course). In our lab, ~5 hours/week equals 1 credit hour.
  5. Notify your supervisor in advance if you cannot come in when scheduled, and be on time.
  6. Ask questions about your work and about the larger discipline.
  7. Present your research in lab meeting two times per semester—one time with a research plan and one time with some results and conclusions.
  8. If there is an undergraduate research symposium during a semester that you are working in the lab, we expect you to present your work at that forum.

To get an A, you need to meet all of the above. If you are missing or have low performance in one category, your grade will decline to an A-; two categories, B+; three categories, B; etc. See timeline below above having regular conversations with your supervisor and Prof. Hellmann about how your grade is going.

In general (though exceptions do occur), we expect undergrads to spend about 4-5 hours per week per credit performing research. For 2 credit hours, therefore, expect to commit about 8-10 hours per week. Most students enroll for 2 or 3 credits depending on the project they are pursuing and what the rest of their academic schedule allows.

First 2 weeks of the semester—develop goals and share those with Prof. Hellmann
1/3rd and 2/3rd of way through the semester—check how goals are going; go through the checklist above; present in lab meeting. Turn in progress report to Prof. Hellmann (can use checklist above).
Last weeks of the semester—evaluate completion of goals; prepare final presentation.


  1. Your supervisor will be available to meet with you weekly and will be accessible during your lab hours.
  2. Equipment and supplies that you need to complete your work.
  3. Mentorship to help you grow as a scientist, including guidance on publishing, strategies for applying to graduate school, best scientific practices, etc.
  4. Help you do your work—not to hold your hand, but to give you the tools and knowledge to be successful and problem-solve for yourself.
  5. Help in preparing your work for presentation, in lab meeting and at research symposia.


  1. To produce a great independent project of publication quality
  2. For an invitation to come back and work with us in the future
  3. For a glowing letter of recommendation. We write the best letters for A students, of course!

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