Getting started in undergraduate research
We hope that you will consider participating in a research,
scholarly, or other creative projects—independently or as part of an existing
faculty project—outside of your academic program. Advantages of participating in research as an
- getting an insider's perspective into the research
- gaining essential technical and non-technical
skills that will benefit you now and throughout your career
- developing a deep understanding of who you are
and what you want to do
- strengthening the quality of your resume when
applying for jobs, graduate schools, or other pre-professional programs
How do I get started?
Translating your ideas into research designs can be a
daunting process. The university is dedicated to helping you make the most of
your higher education experience, and has many resources to help you from start
There are three critical components to being an
YOU are excited and open-minded about your discipline.Read more
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the possible areas of research that
interest or intrigue you? Considering
subjects or classes that have excited you; what topics have piqued your
curiosity or passion?
- Why do you want to do research? How might participation in research be
relevant or important to your long-term goals?
- Do you enjoy challenges and solving
problems? Are you self-motivated and an
independent worker? Are you persistent
in completing projects? How well developed
are your time-management skills?
- Can you afford to take some time away from your
coursework to devote to the project this semester/year? If not now, when might be a good time to
become involved in research?
Whether you choose to participate in an existing
faculty project or develop your own independent research project, you should
have a genuine commitment to thoroughly exploring the topic and expanding your
knowledge base in that area.
INTEREST in exploring your academic discipline in more depth with a faculty mentor Read more
There are many ways to find research opportunities here:
- Approach your current (or previous) class
instructors about whether topics that you find intriguing would be appropriate
for a research project. Make appointments with them to discuss your ideas
(refer to the Faculty Mentor section below for hints on how best to do this).
- Talk to your adviser and to other undergraduate
(and graduate) students who are doing research in your area(s) of
interest. They have many insights to
share and you can bounce your ideas off them.
- Check the Interns-to-Scholars (I2S) program
for available internship opportunities each semester.
- Investigate research opportunities in your department
or in a related department. Search the department’s website to learn about the
research interest of potential faculty mentors. Sometimes faculty members’
personal websites are linked from the departmental site, and many departments
have existing research projects that need undergraduate researchers.
- Discuss your research ideas with a faculty
member who is doing research that interests you. Although it can be intimidating, our faculty are
eager to work with undergraduates. Set up
an appointment to discuss your ideas.
- Sign up for a research-intensive or methods
Regularly check the posting on the Research
A FACULTY MENTOR who is willing to help you. Selecting the appropriate faculty
mentor is critical for a successful undergraduate research experience. Read more
Many faculty members have major research projects that are
already underway, and you may be able to contribute to their research goals
with your own research project. Our
faculty are known for being very approachable, down-to-earth scholars. They will be excited to talk to you about
your research ideas and their research projects.
Remember, all Hooper Undergraduate Research Award (HURA) applications require that you have a faculty mentor to
help you create a great research plan and to help you through difficult parts
of your research.
Contacting and meeting with potential faculty research mentors
Contact a potential faculty mentor
- Introduce yourself in a formally-written e-mail and
express your interest in the faculty member’s research; if you plan to talk to
several potential mentors to find the right match with your interests, be sure
that you indicate this.
- Attach your resume to your e-mail (or bring it
with you if you visit during office hours).
- Ask for an appointment to discuss research
opportunities in more detail.
- Alternatively, find out the posted office hours
for potential faculty mentors; the faculty set up these hours as times that
they are specifically available to talk to students.
Always be prepared and professional when contacting and
meeting with faculty. Your interactions with faculty members can be as
important as a job interview.
Reading the faculty member’s website or one of their recent
publications would be beneficial.
Be prepared to answer these questions when you meet with a
- Why do you want to do research?
- Why are you interested in the faculty member’s
- What are your future educational or professional
- How does research fit into your goals?
- How much time do you have to devote to a
- Have you taken any courses relevant to
research? If so, which one(s)?
You should also prepare a list of questions to ask the
faculty member, such as:
- What are some possible opportunities for
undergraduates related to your scholarly work?
- How many undergraduate research projects have
you mentored? What did these students do?
- What are your expectations for undergraduate
- How could I (the student) prepare for doing
Thank the faculty member for taking the time to discuss
research opportunities with you.
Selecting a faculty mentor
After meeting with one or more potential faculty members,
select the one who best fits with your research project and personal
style. Generally speaking, choose a
faculty mentor who:
- is engaged in research in your area of interest
- has a track-record of mentoring and publishing
with undergraduate students
- has a communication style with which you feel
- is accessible
- seems genuinely interested in you
- has the space, equipment, and instrumentation
needed for your project
Getting academic credit for your independent research projects
Work with your adviser to determine whether your research
project is also appropriate to receive academic credit toward your degree.
For projects funded by the Hooper Undergraduate Research
Award (HURA), you will be required to register for at least one hour of
undergraduate research or independent study every semester you receive HURA
funding (including summer).