I was very lucky in having great advisors, and projects that worked out very well. Here are some things that I’ve learned, that may help as you decide whether to go to grad school, where, and with whom.
It is very much like an old-fashioned apprenticeship. You interact closely with your advisor and with a few lab mates, and you learn most from the informal interactions. There is formal instruction, but the most important bits come from conversations over coffee, from the literature review that your chosen subject leads you to, from the lessons that your chosen bug has to teach.
It is vitally important to drench yourself in the current theory of your field early on, and then thoroughly apply your research to the contributions that your bug can add.
It is important to choose an advisor and lab with whom you will interact well. But you can’t know that until you’re there. There’s the rub. Still, take your time, contact your potential advisor and lab mates and ask them what it’s like there. If you have the chance, visit.
Just when you’re getting the hang of it, it will be time to graduate and leave. This is hard, because grad school is close to the perfect setting to engage in scholarship, and it is a lot of fun. So it is useful to remind yourself that it is suppossed to be a brief period of intense training.
Look at several potential universities and advisors according to your area of interest.
Contact your potential advisors before you apply to the school. If you have somebody who is interested in you inside the school, the application process runs much better.
There are some options, and most people use a few during their graduate careers. Schools vary in the length of time they will commit support (say, in how many years a TAship is secured), so check up on these details.
You don’t need to work this out before you apply, or even soon after you begin. This is simply some info that may be helpful. And don’t let it draw your mind away from the main thing: the people you will interact with.