Student FAQ

Can I work on a project outside of my major?

Absolutely. You will find that many research projects, especially larger ones, will need students from different backgrounds and with different skills. For example, an engineering product development project may need someone with knowledge of psychology and human factors to research human interaction with the product. Having said this, some faculty may prefer to work primarily with students majoring in the area being researched.

What if I have my own idea for a project?

Students can work with a faculty member on an existing research project or on a project based on the student’s own ideas. You must have a faculty advisor for your project.

If you want to pursue your own project, find a faculty advisor who is interested in your topic. In some disciplines, it is more common to work with the advisor on an existing project than to create your own. In other disciplines, it’s the other way around. In either case, spend time talking to your advisor and other knowledgeable people about your project.

Can I get funding for an independent project?

Yes. Please take some time to look through the opportunities listed on the research funding page. It is also a good idea to speak with the faculty members working on the project and those working on associated topics. They might know of potential local and external funding opportunities.

Can I get credit for my research?

Often, yes. Research experiences are part of the Independent Studies Program. Contact the College Center for Advising Services (CCAS) before you begin a research project with any questions. Please note that the Biology Department and the Hajim School of Engineering have specific supplementary procedures for students conducting research for credit.

How do I find a faculty member with whom to do research?

There are several ways to find a faculty mentor:

  • Talk with people in your department/program of interest for ideas and recommendations
  • Talk to research professors in departments close to your interests and see if any are doing research that interests you
  • Ask your TAs and fellow students about their experiences
  • Check departmental websites for departmental events where you might learn more
  • Go to departmental seminars
  • Try our new AURA system to view job postings and contact information.
Can I get funding to go to a conference?

If your advisor is not able to provide funding, he or she may be able to help you by making a request to the department or suggesting funding sources to which you might apply. Some departments and programs offer awards or travel grants in support of undergraduate research. You may also apply for an award that will provide partial support to attend a conference in order to present your work; please see the research presentation award page for instructions and application form.

Can all majors participate in research?

Definitely. You will find that faculty members in virtually every department at the University conduct research and may need undergraduate researchers to assist them. Also, many departments strongly encourage students to pursue research on their own under the mentorship of a faculty member.

A good place to start is the research by department page.

Do I have to be an upperclassman to do research?

No. If you are truly passionate about a certain research area, it will help to express your interest as soon as possible. While some projects may require that you have completed certain classes or labs, it doesn’t hurt to express your interest and ask faculty members if they are willing to train and accept students with less experience.

What is the suggested timetable for participating in undergraduate research?

There is no single answer to this. A timetable that works for many students is the following:

  • First year:
    • Gain some basic knowledge through your classes and course projects that could be applied to a research project.
    • Investigate the research being conducted by the faculty members teaching your classes.
    • Determine which research projects interest you personally and express your interest to faculty members.
  • Sophomore:
    • Begin to look more closely at research opportunities in your field of interest.
    • Take more courses by a faculty member whose research interests you.
    • Begin working on a resume that outlines the applicable courses you have taken and class projects you have done.
    • Talk with a faculty member about the possibility of doing an independent research project and begin familiarizing yourself with their work.
    • Look into summer research programs, most of which come with a stipend, or a paid summer research assistantship, which might continue into the next fall.
  • Junior:
    • Take an independent research project for credit, pay, or experience.
    • Look into summer research programs.
  • Senior:
    • Continue on the same or a new project.
    • Submit an abstract to a conference detailing the work you have done and/or will finish this year.
    • Include your research project as experience when you apply for employment or graduate school.