Something Useful: Research at Dartmouth

I’ll try to keep a variety of subjects in my admissions posts so that I’m more than a sardonic read for the terminally bored. Provided you even got to these posts—they’re not the most findable.

One question that I get pretty frequently whenever I go back home is “How do you get into research at Dartmouth?” (Mostly from the scientifically inclined).

There are many paths by which you might involve in research here, so I’ll just describe mine. I like to try a little of several academic things. Call me diverse, or jack-of-all-trades, master of none, you pick.

So I’ve done a few years of science research in Geisel School of Medicine starting with WISP and going through Presidential Scholars research assistant, and now I’m doing a bit of humanities research in the Classics Department.

It’s now about that time of year when the WISP applications are being submitted and freshmen women are busy interviewing with professors. Here’s my short guide to research at Dartmouth College for first-year women interested in science.

1) Read this link on WISP first:

Look, I even found it for you! The timeline will shift a little for next year, but it’s usually the same idea every fall term.

And then look at this one:

WISP, otherwise known as the Women in Science Project at Dartmouth College, encourages freshmen girls at Dartmouth to get into research. Something like 80 research grants are provided in round 1 of the applications, and the remaining projects that did not take WISP interns will be available during the second round. You apply for a science, math, or technology project of interest, complete two terms of research, and present your work at the annual Wetterhahn Symposium in the Life Sciences Center in May of your spring term.

Browse about the site for the Peer Mentorship Program as well, if you so choose. What I gave you was the timeline for the research internship component of WISP.

2) Get into WISP!

I’ll walk you through the general process, based on what I went through as a freshman.

N.B. Males, I’m terribly sorry, but we do not have a MISP.

If you are in possession of a Y chromosome, and are interested in research, I wholeheartedly encourage you to independently look at various science/math department websites for professors who are doing research in areas in which you have an interest, contact the principal investigators, and ask whether you might be able to volunteer in their labs.

3) Info sessions, info sessions, info sessions: Women: You’ll go to information sessions/the WISP panel because you are responsible people with an interest in research! You’ll hear stories from past WISP interns and understand what it means to be in this program.


(Note: WISP is just a research grant. Meaning that you get paid for your work through this particular program. You do not need to be in WISP in order to get into research here. Even if you do not do research via WISP, you can always get into a lab on your own initiative, if a professor is willing to work with you. The absolute worst thing you can do is not ask).

You will then receive a list of the research professors/principal investigators (from several departments—in the medical school, in Biology, in Chemistry, in Physics, in the engineering school, Math, CRREL—the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab, etc.) who have a project available for a first-year intern.

4) Choose your interests: Pick your top choices over the next little while. CHOOSE CAREFULLY! Be interested in the project, have a sense of how you would plan your schedule around it, and location, location, location. I’ll get to this later.

5) Cold emailing/interviewing: Contact the appropriate professors via email, and set up an interview. Please plan to do this early—particularly for the more popular internships (i.e. anything relating to medicine, genetics, neuroscience, or psychology).

Then, INTERVIEW! Don’t stress too much about this—the professors are just trying to get to know you. That’s not to say that the interview is unimportant. Here’s some interviewing advice from our site:

As much as I tell you not to stress, you inevitably will. But it’s okay! You’ll have friends who are going through the same thing. It’s all part of the first-year experience.

6) And then you wait. After this process, you’ll submit your apps with a list of top 5 choices (you can interview as much or as little as you please). And then you wait.

And you wait.

And then decisions from round 1 will come out.

AND THEN YOU REJOICE! Because you have a match!

I was matched with Professor Sanchez at the medical school in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology during the first round.

7) Start working! And don’t be discouraged! I learned quite a lot in my first year of undergraduate research, but it didn’t come without quite a lot of struggling.

I did some pretty terrible things during the learning process (I learn eventually, but I’m slow). I dried out tissue samples, broke microscope slides, spilled things, and shattered a beaker in my first couple months.

I was so frustrated a lot of the time…I got no time for this nonsense. I’m done. I’m done.

But I eventually got very used to it. Staining for various proteins turned into a little recipe that stayed in my head, and my tissue stains eventually came out very nicely.

And then there’s that whole balancing-with-classes business. WISP is kind of like a fourth class. So consider your workload and your LOCATION. Some labs, i.e. those in CRREL and DHMC are a little far and usually entail taking a bus. So plan carefully and take into consideration how far you’d like to commute/how that commute factors into your day. I was fortunate enough to be able to work at Geisel, which is not far from my classes/the parts of campus that I frequent.

But yeah. That’s my story. Bottom line: research is pretty accessible here.

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