To help students find the perfect lab for summer research, Yale College Associate Dean for Science and Quantitative Reasoning Education Sandy Chang organized a matchmaking event that brought Yale’s researchers directly to students.
On Monday and Tuesday evening, over two hundred students — mostly first and second–year students — gathered in Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall’s auditorium to hear dozens of Yale faculty give brief pitches of their research. In their pitches, the faculty detailed aspects of their labs such as possible projects students could work on and the number of students that they can accommodate over the summer. A networking session with pizza followed the event, which allowed students to meet the researchers and ask questions.
“When Yale students are looking for labs themselves, it might be a hit or miss,” Chang said. “I thought it would be much more fun and informative for the students if professors come and give a little spiel about their research, and then have the students talk to the faculty immediately afterwards and engage them in a scientific discussion.”
When students are looking for lab to work in for the summer, they usually go through a time-consuming process of browsing faculty research online, emailing faculty back and forth and then finally meeting them one-on-one, Chang said, noting that the event makes finding a potential mentor a “much more satisfying experience.”
At the event, Chang stressed the importance of having research experiences early in an undergraduate career. But he also said that some find it more difficult than others to find the right lab.
“There is some sort of barrier for some undergraduates to approach faculty when it comes to looking for labs — this barrier is especially acute for first-generation students,” Chang said in an interview with the News.
Chang, who also directs the STARS Summer Research Program for first-generation and low-income students, said he noticed that some students are shy or reluctant to approach faculty on their own.
“So I thought, ‘Why not get our faculty to come and recruit our fabulous Yale undergrads,’” he said.
Dean of Yale College and psychology professor Marvin Chun was among the presenters. Chun, who leads a brain-imaging and machine learning lab, said that he usually has one or two undergraduates working for him over the summer.
After his presentation, Chun told the News he was thrilled that Chang organized the event.
“I think the success of it is really shown by the large attendance of students who are here and who are lingering and interacting with the professors,” he said. “This has been a spectacular thing to start, and I’m sure it will continue.”
Astronomy professor Meg Urry — whose research focuses on supermassive black holes and the galaxies that host them — also presented at the event. During her pitch, she said that she enjoys hosting students in her lab over the summer. Urry also noted that her research group participates in Granville Academy, a weeklong program that discusses STEM inclusivity.
“Dean Chang had done a fantastic job of making opportunities visible to all students and encouraging students to participate,” she said.
According to Urry, the matchmaking event was important because some students come into Yale with significant experience and knowledge about acquiring a summer research fellowship, while others have never undertaken summer research.
Overall, students interviewed by the News thought that the event was helpful in making the summer fellowship search less intimidating.
“I thought it was a great idea for Dean Chang to organize this and put this together,” said Ronald Hood ’22.
Chang was appointed to his position as associate dean in 2017.
Marisa Peryer | firstname.lastname@example.org .