Getting a research position is no easy task; for most departments, if not all, timing is essential.
If you're interested in a course you took last term or are taking this term, connect with the professor or the TA’s for that lecture or lab. Professors love to talk about their research. Not only can you learn more about their research, you can also inquire about potential research opportunities in their lab. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a professor, you can always talk to TA’s in your lab, or send your professor an email. Frequently, a TA can be a student researcher who may provide you with an idea of what working in the field might look like, as well as potential opportunities for getting into research.
If you're planning to work or volunteer in a research setting for the summer, you should start approaching professors for possible lab positions as early as January. Summer research awards, particularly NSERC USRA, are advertised as early as January, and application deadlines range from February to March. Check out the NSERC SURA site for more details on deadlines!
Research positions may be competitive, depending on your chosen field. Make your application stand out by strengtheing your résumé and cover letter. Good marks may also be needed in your Science courses, particularly if you want to get into research related to those courses. Check out UBC resources and workshops on improving your application.
If you are keen on taking courses while doing some laboratory work, it is a good idea to check out Work Learn positions. Over 400 on-campus jobs (many of them research-related) accept applications in August for winter session positions and April for summer positions. Not only do Work Learn positions offer hourly pay, you can also work a maximum of 20 hours per week. Hours can also be flexible to your course schedule. Learn more.
Directed Studies is a course where the student participates in a research project and dedicates 120 to 200 hours working in the laboratory. First, a prospective supervisor (professor) must agree to take you on as a Directed Studies student before application to the department of interest.
Remember that if you do not get a paid research position right away, many professors and graduate students recruit volunteers. If you can volunteer your time to earn good learning experience in Science, then you might want to consider volunteering in a laboratory first. Many times, volunteer opportunities can evolve into a paid position.