FAQs

Regarding FLi Sci

Do you offer a mentorship program?

Mentorship is extremely valuable, and many scientist often attribute their own advisors as being integral to their success in science — and we at FLi Sci agree. However, that said, there already exist a variety of mentorship programs to support current college and post-bacc students when it comes to applying to STEM graduate programs. Rather than duplicating the work, FLi Sci aims to collaborate and partner with those organizations that have more infrastructure in place to provide a meaningful mentorship experience.

Why do you currently work with high school students?

Some students are fortunate to identify and acquire a research assistantship early on in their undergraduate career that helps them secure opportunities (such as the Leadership Alliance summer research fellowships or the Goldwater Scholarship). However, to ensure that FLi students are also considered and have a competitive chance of being selected for such programs, we believe that it is crucial that more high school students have early exposure to the subtle intracices of science so that they can make more informed decisions early on in their academic journey. Therefore, we hope that by inviting high school students to programs through FLi Sci, this will position them to be successful in continuing to train in science as soon as possible and to build a compelling scientific portfolio until they apply for PhD or MD programs.

Is there going to be a college component for current university students?

Yes! While the initial programs of FLi Sci are currently to target 9th - 12th grade students, we hope to build our fellowship programs to offer college support by helping students secure research assistantships either at their home college or through external programs such as the Leadership Alliance or the National Science Foundation REU Program.

Though it is also uncertain when exactly we can formally offer programs geared towards college students, we encourage you to seek out support either from your university's advisement services, current STEM faculty at your school, or reviewing our list of resources to find external opportunities that could meet your current needs.

General Scientific Inquiries

Who would make a good mentor?

The best kinds of mentors include:

  • Professors

  • Graduate students

  • Lab supervisors

  • Postdoctoral Scholars

  • and more! (Ideally professionals who know you well)

Many individuals will try to convince you that one may be more optimal than the other (and there is some veracity to that) — but some mentors are better than none! If you meet someone who is willing to invest in you or get to know your personal, academic, and professional interest, then get to know them!

What is the "Hidden Curriculum" in science?

The "Hidden Curriculum" is the concept of underlying rules, cultural norms, and practices often covert and inaccessible to underrepresented groups. For example, many students from low-income schools may not have been taught to interact with their teachers constantly and utilize their time (e.g., office hours). However, these are often ways in which people acquire opportunities to advance in their careers — but this is not always explicit.

Should I make a Twitter account?

This is entirely up to you. However, many academics post updates on Twitter such as new papers, job opportunities, or anything related to science. It does not have to be your default social media app, but it can certainly help you stay even more connected with the STEM community!

Becoming a Research Assistant

When can I start doing research?

Whenever you are ready and eager to learn! The right time to start is yesterday (if you wanted to!). Or it can be your final year of undergrad. If you feel ready or you're curious and want to learn more, then you're ready!

How do I become a research assistant?

First, start by figuring out what you want to research. From there, start reaching out to people in that area — faculty at your schools, peers, even graduate students in the lab!

Not quite sure what research is like or curious to know more about what a lab is doing? Email the professor and ask to attend their lab meetings. They are usually open to the public, and it's a great way to meet people in the lab and get your foot in the door before starting an official RA position.

What should I do if a professor won't respond to my emails?

Professors are often busy. Don't take it personal if they don't reply to your emails; they often have a full inbox on top of a plethora of responsibilities.

If you are contacting a professor inquiring about research in their lab, the next alternative is to contact one of their graduate students or a postdoc — they would be much more receptive to an email and could help advocate for you in the lab! Try there.

I can't find support to do research at my school. What should I do?

Try this page! This can be a good starting point to find more opportunities and resources.

Additionally, you can try finding research opportunities OUTSIDE your institution (e.g., another nearby college, a research center, etc.). Many programs also offer summer opportunities for students across the nation (e.g., Leadership Alliance, LRDC Summer Internship). Try locating those opportunities. We'll update this website with some of those as soon as we find them, but I encourage you to try googling or joining a listserv to try and find them.

I go to University of X but want to do research in a lab at Y University. Is this okay?

Yep — sure is! The only caveat though is that if space in a lab is limited, and if it is very popular amongst their graduates, then a Lab Director may prioritize students at that institution. However, it is very common for students to work in labs that are outside where they go to school.

Applying to Graduate School

Can I apply to PhD programs without research experience?

It really depends on the program; this is a difficult question to answer because some programs may be more lenient than others and you can't really tell without contacting them.

Don't let a lack of experience discourage you from applying, however. There are various programs you can do after you graduate to accumulate some more experience before you apply, and many programs are highly encouraging college graduates to take up to 2 years to work full-time in a lab before applying to doctoral programs.

However, if you want to know more about your competitiveness for a program, it is best to ask a faculty member at an institution you're interested in directly.

I didn't do research in high school, and my school did not prepare me well in science. Can I still do research?

OF! COURSE! YOU! CAN! Take a look at some of the resources for guidance. Need some more support? Contact a member of the FLi Sci Team or a FLi Sci Alli!

I don't have a 4.0. How important are GPAs?

This depends on the program and who reviews your application. If you have a lower GPA, know that this can easily be compensated with research experience, glowing letters of recommendation, and a compelling application essay.

Need some more assurance? Reach out to a FLi Sci Ally for some advice. Many of them would be happy to demystify grades for you or offer some assistance of how to boost your application eclipse any academic setbacks.

Do I need to publish before applying to PhD programs?

No, you don't. Publishing helps, no doubt about it, but many students enter graduate school with zero publications — and that is okay. Promise.

Am I less competitive if I didn't do a thesis?

Not necessarily, no. Not every student does a thesis in college for a variety of reasons, and some really talented graduate students did not do a thesis at all.

That being said, doing one certainly helps, as it is very intensive research experience — but if you work in a lab, and have a letter from your mentor highlighting your work, this can also help.

What if I can't afford to do research? Does this affect my prospects for graduate school?

It really depends on the program; this is a difficult question to answer because some programs may be more lenient than others and you can't really tell without contacting them.

Don't let a lack of experience discourage you from applying, however. There are various programs you can do after you graduate to accumulate some more experience before you apply, and many programs are highly encouraging college graduates to take up to 2 years to work full-time in a lab before applying to doctoral programs.

However, if you want to know more about your competitiveness for a program, it is best to ask a faculty member at an institution you're interested in directly.

Where can I find samples of research proposals or personal statements for applications?

Check out the resources tab on this website!

Will I need 3 letters of recommendation?

This really depends on the program. It may ask for only 2 recommenders, but most programs do ask for 3—with one of them being someone who has seen you in a research capacity.

Who can write a letter of recommendation for PhD programs?

Professors, graduate students that have mentored you, supervisors (in a research lab or in industry) can be good people to ask for letters of recommendation. Under no circumstances should you ask family members or friends to write you letters of recommendation (unless a graduate program specifically requests this, but that is unlikely).

Affording Graduate School

How can I pay for a PhD program? I don't have any money.

Most programs are FREE! They each offer their funding structure differently, but you SHOULD NOT be paying for your doctoral program — they should be paying YOU! (In fact, if it is not free, then you should be alarmed).

Additionally, there are various funding opportunities to help supplement if you need additional financial support. Check out the Fellowships page on this website for more details.

How much do PhD students get paid?

It depends on the program. If you want to get a sense, check out www.phdstipends.com.

Do I need to apply for external funding to afford a PhD program?

Not necessarily. It is very possible to go through your entire doctoral program without any external funding to provide financial support. However, many graduate programs will highly encourage their students to apply for opportunities (e.g., the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship) as a way for the department and institution as a whole to save money. Additionally, not all schools have the same budget; schools like Harvard and Stanford have an enormous endowment compared to smaller institutions, that may have a more conservative budget. Therefore, having some external Fellowships may help increase your PhD stipend or research funds.