Nuts and Bolts of Research: recommend setting up a schedule that works, hours that work
Plan your classes so that you have a decent amount of time; roughly 3 hours (depends on your research) and at least twice a week to go into lab
Working under a mentor vs. creating your own project:
Both can be done! If you want to create your own project, you will need to show your professor a proposal, with a research plan sketched out
Keep in mind that the environment of a lab can differ: some are deeply bureaucratic over generations, while others are more free-form-- this has to do with the history of students in the lab!
Let your professors know when you might have conflicting events with your research by GIVING THEM AN AHEAD OF TIME NOTICE
Let your professors know your intended goals so you can find the right lab; for example, what type of project are you seeking to undertake, to what degree of autonomy do you hope to have on the project, etc.
Make sure to stay in contact with your professor and research mentor throughout the process!
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