Getting Started in Research
The following are steps you can take to prepare for undergraduate research opportunities.
- Do well academically and explore your interests and goals. Your first priority is to do well in your classes and explore your intellectual interests.
- Network. There are lots of different ways to network and learn about the research landscape here at Rochester including:
- Talking to professors in the areas of your interest
- Joining student academic organizations in the department most closely aligned with your interests
- Connecting with students who have done research in areas of interest to you
- Attending departmental seminars
- Survey the landscape of opportunities. The way in which undergraduates get involved in research at the University varies by discipline. See the department-by-department listing for more information.
- Contact professors with whom you’d like to work. When meeting with a professor, you should:
- Review the information about the professor and their research before you meet with them.
- Be prepared to give them a summary of the coursework and skills relevant for the work you might be doing.
- Understand that mentoring an undergraduate on a research project takes substantial effort on the mentor’s part. It is important that the project and student fit well together and that the timing works for the mentor.
- Take appropriate research methods courses and attend seminars. Many departments have courses or seminar series that are designed to introduce students to discipline-specific research methods. Consider taking honors-level courses in the area of your interest.
- Consider a summer research experience. Summer research—away from coursework and the distractions of the school year—is one of the best times to find out what doing research is like.
Working with your Mentor
The following tips will help you build a positive working relationship with your mentor.
- Maintain a positive working relationship with your mentor. You and your mentor should come to an agreement on the following areas before you get started:
- How frequently you will meet face-to-face
- How closely you will work with a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow in addition to the faculty member
- What blocks of time, hours of the day, or hours per week, consecutive weeks, or quarters you will work
- How you will be trained
- Whether you will attend lab or research group meetings (and, if so, will you need to prepare something for them)
- Whether you will work in the lab or research area, or if there is work you can take home to complete
- What kind of final product you will produce
- Be the active, responsible party in initiating and organizing one-on-one communication. Set meeting agendas, prioritize issues you want to discuss, be a leader in discussions.
- Work with your mentor to set short- and long-term goals and deadlines for the different stages of your project.
- Learn your faculty member’s communication habits. When does email suffice? When must you meet face-to-face? When—if ever—may you call them at home?
- Consider sending summaries of meetings restating tasks and the division of labor.
- Always read books or articles your faculty member recommends to you and share your responses. Take the faculty member’s suggestions seriously and let them know that their time with you is well-spent.
- Always express your thanks after the faculty member has taken the time to meet with you. Send a thank you note or email stating what you gained from the interaction and how you plan to move ahead.