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:

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:

Departmental Resources

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.

As was mentioned before, the College of Science has departmental undergraduate research coordinators to help you find a project.

Direct Contact

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.