Getting Started in Undergraduate Research
Over the years, involvement in undergraduate research has become so prevalent that employers and graduate schools expect it from students. Undergraduate research allows students to gain knowledge that can’t be acquired through traditional coursework. Such involvement allows students to have a better understanding of their chosen discipline and enables them to have a clearer vision of their career goals. The importance of undergraduate research cannot be overlooked.
Students often cite finding a research project as the major barrier to getting involved with research. Whether a student ends up doing an independent project, participating in field research or working in a lab or a library, the search for a mentor and project that fit the student’s interests can be difficult. Here are some of strategies for making the search a fruitful one:
The classroom is the best place for students to find a faculty member who inspires them and with whom they wish to work. Most instructors conduct research and will welcome the opportunity to talk with a student who is interested in getting involved. If you like a class — even if it’s outside your major — talk to your professor! The question, “Do you work with undergraduates on research?” is a good place to start.
Connecting to Your Discipline
Some colleges have undergraduate research opportunities and ideas integrated directly into their web pages:
- The College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences includes some great content on how to get started in the college
- The College of Science has departmental undergraduate research coordinators to help you find a project
- The College of Engineering has a webpage outlining both general and department-specific opportunities
- S.J. & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources hosts undergraduate research opportunities in the college
- Caine College of the Arts
- Jon M. Huntsman School of Business
- Emma Eccles Jones College of Education & Human Services
- College of Humanities & Social Sciences
In other cases, individual department web pages often include a link to research, or undergraduate research, though not always in the same place (so look around). Here are a few examples:
Undergraduate advisors. Every department has professional advisors who can provide a lot of help in finding a good opportunity within a department. Set up a time to ask about opportunities in undergraduate research.
Departmental Honors Advisors are another likely source of information. Even if you are not in honors, the departmental honors advisor may know which faculty members are looking to mentor an undergraduate researcher.
All department web pages include a list of faculty members (generally via a “people” or “faculty” link). This is an excellent place for students to review the faculty members in the department person by person to see what sort of research that they conduct. If you see something that you like, send an email and set up a time to chat!
Undergraduate Research Office
Finally, the Undergraduate Research Office can provide additional guidance. Just set up a time to see Dr. Sand, and she will work with you to find a good match.