A lab course is an opportunity for undergraduates to gain research experience while earning course credit. Lab courses generally involve students working hands-on in a Harvard-affiliated research lab, and they follow a different format than typical classroom-based courses.
Most labs will have you commit at least 10 hours per week (often as many as 15) with a graduate student or other researcher, and many have lab meetings where you would be expected to discuss assigned readings or listen to (and possibly give) presentations about current research. Undergraduate research assistants may help with the day-to-day function of the lab, including recruiting subjects, recording, coding, and analyzing data, and helping to run and design studies. You will not attend lectures and there is no final exam, but lab courses generally require that you write a paper at the end of the semester that brings together relevant research in the area in which you are working.
Here's a breakdown of this page to help answer your specific questions about lab courses...
- Who is Required to Take a Lab Course?
- Psychology 910R
- Limits on Lab Courses
- How to Enroll in a Lab Course
- List of Lab Courses for Psychology Concentrators
- Discontinued Lab Courses that Meet the Lab Requirement
- How to Reach Out to Labs
You can also check out our handout, How to Join a Lab!
All students writing a thesis must take a lab course, as well as students in the Cognitive Science (MBB) Track. Students in the Cognitive Neuroscience & Evolutionary Psychology (Life Sciences) track must also take a lab course if they are part of the Class of 2014 or earlier.
Non-thesis students in the Class of 2024 or later can choose to take a lab course to count towards their Advanced Courses (see the requirements chart).* Taking a lab course is not required, but it is an excellent way to gain research experience and develop relationships with faculty, graduate students, and researchers in a lab!
* Non-thesis students from the Classes of 2021, 2022, 2023, and students returning from leave may count either PSY 1901 or a lab course towards their Research Methods requirement. Please reach out to the Undergraduate Office with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in working in a lab run by someone other than a Psychology Department faculty member, you might be able to enroll in Psychology 910R, Supervised Research, our general research course. PSY 910R is a lab course, but it requires you to have a supervisor who is an assistant, associate, or full professor in the Department (or an asterisked member of the Board of Honors Tutors), even if they are not the Principal Investigator of the lab you will be working in. Any other affiliated supervisors (graduate students, professors at MGH or Harvard Medical School, etc.) would then sign on as co-supervisors.
The structure of the course will be determined by your supervisor(s), and at the end of the semester, you will submit to the UGO a ~10-page research paper that relates to the work you have been doing.
To enroll in PSY 910R, you must fill out an application, have it signed by the faculty member(s) you'll be studying under, and submit it to the Psychology Undergraduate Office at 4 PM the weekday BEFORE the Course Registration Deadline. You can submit either in-person at William James Hall 218, or electronically at email@example.com.
Please note: The UGO reviews 910R applications on a case-by-case basis, and submitting an application is not a guarantee that you will be approved to take the course. Please have a back-up plan in mind for the semester in the event that your application is turned down!
Limits on Lab Courses
There are limits on the number of lab courses that can count for concentration or secondary field credit.
- Secondary field students: All may count only one lab course.
- Concentrators (entering in the Class of 2011 and beyond): All students (any track, including thesis writers) may count up to two lab courses. This can be any combination of PSY 910R, PSY 985, or the lab courses listed below. Additional lab courses can be taken for college credit, but will not count towards the concentration.
Please note: PSY 985, Junior Tutorial: Honors Thesis Preparation DOES count towards the lab course limit, but will NOT meet the lab course requirement for thesis students. To determine whether your track requires a lab course, please see the full requirements chart.
How to Enroll in a Lab Course
For all lab courses, you must obtain permission and a signature from the instructor before you put the course in your Crimson Cart - you cannot just shop these courses! It is best to get in touch with the professor and/or lab coordinator before the beginning of the semester, as most labs can only accommodate a limited number of research assistants. Keep in mind that some labs may not have openings for undergraduates, so it is important to reach out to them well in advance of the Course Registration Deadline in case you need to explore options at other labs.
Once you have determined a lab course and received permission from the instructor/lab coordinator, you can put the course in your Crimson Cart. For PSY 910R, you must submit an application and receive additional approval from the Undergraduate Office before adding the course to your Crimson Cart. Your supervisor cannot approve your Crimson Cart for 910R - only the UGO can! So be sure you obtain all the necessary signatures and approvals by the Course Registration Deadline.
List of Lab Courses for Psychology Concentrators
Below is a list of courses that fulfill the lab course requirement for Psychology concentrators. If a professor does not offer their own lab course, you may be able to earn credit for work in their lab through Psychology 910R.
For additional research opportunities (including labs run by instructors other than departmental faculty), we encourage you to check out our Departmental Research Listings page. That page is updated on a rolling basis in the days leading up to the first day of classes, so be sure to check back frequently!
To learn more about each specific course, follow the link to the professor's lab website and/or look up the course entry on my.harvard.
[BRACKETED COURSES] are not being offered in the 2020-2021 academic year.
- PSY 910R, Supervised Research (generally taken only in cases where no other lab methods course is offered by the professor; otherwise, the courses listed below are preferred. 910R requires an application that is due the day before the Course Registration Deadline.)
- PSY 1556R, Research Seminar in Implicit Social Cognition (Mahzarin Banaji)
- PSY 1651R, Language Development: Undergraduate Laboratory Course (Jesse Snedeker)
- PSY 1652R, Laboratory in Early Cognitive Development (Elizabeth Spelke)
- PSY 1655R, Conceptual Development: Undergraduate Laboratory Course (Susan Carey)
- PSY 2160R, Laboratory for Affective and Developmental Neuroscience (Leah Somerville)
- PSY 2335R, Concepts, Actions, Objects (CAOs): Research Seminar (Alfonso Caramazza)
- PSY 2341R, Research Seminar in Affect, Learning and Decision-Making (Elizabeth Phelps)
- PSY 2350R, Laboratory on Reinforcement Learning and Decision Making (Samuel Gershman)
- PSY 2352R, Laboratory for Social Cognitive Neuroscience (Jason Mitchell)
- PSY 2354R, Advanced Laboratory in Cognitive Neuroscience (Randy Buckner)
- PSY 2355R, Laboratory on Cognitive and Neural Organization (Talia Konkle)
- PSY 2356R, Visual Cognition: Research Seminar (George Alvarez)
- PSY 2357R, Evolution of Human Cooperation: Research Seminar (Max Krasnow)
- PSY 2358R, Memory: Research Seminar (Daniel Schacter)
- PSY 2362R, Laboratory for Computational Cognitive Science and Development (Tomer Ullman)
- PSY 2410R, Laboratory Research on Emotional Disorders (Richard J. McNally)
- PSY 2442R, Laboratory in Development and Psychopathology (Katie McLaughlin)
- PSY 2446R, Clinical Research Laboratory (Jill Hooley)
- PSY 2453R, Laboratory Research on the Biopsychosocial Effects of Stigma (Mark Hatzenbuehler)
- PSY 2461R, Laboratory for Clinical and Developmental Research (Matthew Nock)
- PSY 2464R, Research Methods in Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychology (John Weisz)
- PSY 2475R, Laboratory for the Systems Neuroscience of Psychopathology (Joshua Buckholtz)
- PSY 2553R, Behavioral Insights Group Research Seminar (Francesca Gino)
- PSY 2554R, Laboratory on Complex Thought and Cooperation (Joshua Greene)
- PSY 2560R, Laboratory in Social Cognition (Fiery Cushman)
- PSY 2570R, Intergroup Relations: Research Seminar (James Sidanius) (Fall 2020 Only)
- PSY 2580R, Doing Psychological Science (Daniel Gilbert)
- PSY 2620R, Lab in Intergroup Neuroscience (Mina Cikara)
- PSY 2640R, The Understand Seminar, (Mahzarin Banaji)
- PSY 2660R, Research Seminar in Mindfulness Theory, (Ellen Langer)
The type of work that an undergraduate will take on in both course levels is similar, but 1000-level Lab Courses have the undergraduate students meet separately, whereas 2000-level Lab Courses have the undergraduates and graduate students in the lab meet together as a group.
Discontinued Lab Courses that Meet the Lab Requirement
Below is a list of Lab Courses were offered in previous terms that still meet the Lab requirement. If you have taken one of these courses and would like it to count for Lab credit, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- [PSY 1151, Cognitive Evolution: Theory and Practice, Marc Hauser]
- [PSY 1152R, Cognition Evolution Laboratory, Marc Hauser]
- [PSY 1352, Foundations of Cognitive Neuroscience Research, Randy Buckner]
- [PSY 1356R, Laboratory in Language Research, Alfonso Caramazza]
- [PSY 1451, Laboratory in Visual Perception, Patrick Cavanagh]
- [PSY 2270, Research in Language Acquisition, Jesse Snedeker]
- [PSY 2440R, Cognition and Anxiety: Research Seminar, Richard J. McNally]
- [PSY 2290R, Laboratory in Auditory Cognition and Development, Erin Hannon]
- [PSY 2320, Applying fMRI to Cognitive Research, Yuhong Jiang]
- [PSY 2330R, Cognitive Psychology and Neuroscience: Research Seminar, Yuhong Jiang]
- [PSY 2353, Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience, Jason Mitchell]
- [PSY 2355R, Laboratory in Cognitive Neuroscience: Research Seminar, Stephen Kosslyn]
- [PSY 2359R, Lab Research and Studies in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Vision, Perception, and Cognition, Yaoda Xu]
- [PSY 2436R, Social Neuroscience and Psychopathology Laboratory, Christine Hooker]
- [PSY 2530R, Mental Control: Research Seminar, Daniel Wegner]
- [PSY 2555R, Emotion and Decision Making: Research Seminar, Jennifer Lerner]
- [PSY 2610R, Social Psychophysiology: Research Seminar, Wendy Mendes]
- [PSY 2661R, Research Seminar in nonverbal Behavior, Social Perception, and Psychophysiology, Amy Cuddy]
- [PSY 2851R, Affective Neuroscience: Research Seminar, Diego Pizzagalli]
If the lab has posted on the UGO's Departmental Research Listings, they will provide contact information and tell you what they are looking for from you (resume, e-mail, etc.). If you have explored their lab site and have not found any contact information, you are welcome to reach out to the faculty member, usually via e-mail.
In your e-mail, you should briefly introduce yourself (name, status as a Harvard undergraduate), and explain what areas of their research interest you. This means you should have done your homework and should know what work is being done in the lab. Finally, politely ask if they might have an opening for a research assistant for the coming semester, and be sure to clarify that you are seeking a Lab Course placement rather than a paid position.
If you want to see what it's like to work in the lab without making a semester-long commitment, you might start by volunteering in the lab for a few hours a week, or even just asking permission to sit in on a few discussion groups or lab meetings. Some labs are not able to accommodate this type of request, but will most likely be willing to meet with you and show you the lab.
In general, faculty members are looking for people who seem interested and excited by their research and would be dedicated research assistants. Keep this in mind when inquiring, and good luck!