Tools of the trade.
When I applied for the Co-op position which eventually lead directly into my PhD studies (no master's degree here), one of the things which certainly helped me out: Skill with Tissue Culture.
By which I mean: I had, during a brief research project during undergrad, gone out of my way to develop a skill set including animal handling, micro-dissection, tissue/organ bath work....and more specifically, all with smooth muscle tissues. It's no coincidence that the model system for my current project involves vessel culture in the Living Systems bath featured above.
So what do I mean by "have a unique, transferable skill?" You need to have something to bring to the table, that you would not have picked up in basic first and second year lab courses. You can do this either through working as a summer student/volunteer student in a research lab, or by taking advanced upper year lab courses. Finally, by completing a technique heavy honors thesis.
What kinds of skills am I talking about?
- Tissue Culture
- Cell Culture (more advanced than the brief intro to aseptic technique you may have gotten in Cell Bio)
- Patch Clamping
- Vector cloning/production
- Protein/antibody purification
- Real Time PCR
- And many, many more
Come back next Monday for more helpful advice for the would be grad student!