The University of California is a powerhouse of STEM research, whose prestigious faculty harnesses the skills of an army of graduate students and postdocs. Those young scientists are the engines of scientific progress. They build their psyches around the idea that they are the young elite of academia. No one gets to Berkeley without the benefit of research experiences at the undergraduate level.
In spite of this, many graduate students and postdocs with whom I’ve spoken are downright dismissive of the contributions of undergrads in the lab. This has lead to a chilly environment for students seeking to do research at Berkeley, while their peers at schools like Reed and St. Lawrence are literally guaranteed senior research experiences. These other schools understand that even for students not planning to go to graduate school, the experience of working in a real lab is invaluable.
Though UCB has recently improved, adding courses like CHEM-96, the SMART program, and the fourth annual Undergrad Research Symposium, we’re still a decade behind. The reticence on the part of many faculty and graduate students to be part of the solution is antiquated.
During my time at Berkeley, I’ve had the pleasure of working with two undergraduate students. I’m going to tell you the reasons why I recommend that every graduate student do the same.
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