One of the things that made an enormous difference to me as an undergraduate was getting involved in research. Honestly, had I not done that my decent-but-not-spectacular grades would not have gotten me where I am today. Research got me going and that propelled me into a position to take off on this career path. As such, I like to try and get undergrads into my lab. Yeah, it's a lot of work getting them trained up, but if you can get a student early enough, the pay-off can be big.
With the lab resources dwindling and no clear safety net in play, I'm concerned about paying an undergraduate over the summer when that money might be critical down the road. However, there are programs at the university that students can apply for to get stipends for the summer and naturally I have been encouraging students who seem promising to do so. My classes have been fertile ground to identify students who might work well in my lab and the deadline nears.
But that leaves me in an awkward spot. I can't give these kids anything other than a letter of support to try and get them a position. However, if they get a fellowship, they are free to chose from a huge number of labs to pursue the research that most interests them. There are not many labs that will turn down a summer student with a stipend. So, I can encourage them to apply and let them know I think they are strong candidates, but I'm find it exceedingly difficult to figure out how to nudge them towards my lab.
With money in hand I can tell them "If you're interested, I would like to have you in the lab", but when they have to apply to get money I kinda feel like a jerk pitching my lab when there are a lot of options. I want these students to get the experience, in my lab or elsewhere, and that fine line between encouraging them and actively recruiting them (without knowing their real interests, while not sitting in a prof's office) has been hard to navigate.
I'm not sure why I am finding this difficult, it shouldn't be, but I've talked to two students so far and only managed to convince them to apply to the program. Suggesting specifically that the should consider my lab has just seemed awkward. As someone who typically has no problem working a conversation to my intended goal, I don't know what my problem is on this front. Maybe I just don't want them to feel like I'm trying to push them into something they don't want to do, I don't know. At the same time, since I'm not curing cancer or working with familiar organisms, I generally have to recruit if I want to get good people.
I think it's time to rethink my approach and find a better way to reel these kids in.