I’m interested in research. What should I do to find out more about it?

There are a number of different ways to learn about how research is conducted, and how to get involved. A great starting point is talking to graduate students who you’ve had as GSI’s or looking into some of the resources discussed within the Guide for Undergraduates. Additionally, you can check out a specific lab group's page to find out more about their research specifically.

I’m thinking about pursuing a PhD. Should I do research?

If you are thinking about a PhD at all, it is a great idea to get involved in research as soon as possible! Not only will it help you to understand what you’ll be signing up for, but it will also make you a more attractive candidate when applying to grad programs.

I don’t know anything about doing research. How can I get myself prepared?

It’s very common to feel unfamiliar with research. The best way to get prepared for research is by talking to people (grad students, faculty, other undergraduate researchers, etc.) about their experience with research! Another great resource to help you get started is our Guide for Undergraduates.

What would I get out of a research position?

Specific skills you might gain vary by project, but by working in a lab, you’ll likely gain practical experience in day-to-day lab responsibilities as well as an understanding of the ultimate goals of academic research.

Should I work during the school year or the summer?

This should be decided on a case-by-case basis, and in conjunction with your mentor and advisor. If you are able to manage lab time and classes, working during the school year can be a great way to maximize your productivity. However, it is important to remember that lab work can be demanding and exhausting. Make sure to maintain a healthy balance! Working over the summer will give you more time to focus your total attention on research, and summer research is more likely to be funded.

What does undergraduate research encompass?

Typically, undergraduate researchers function as assistants to graduate students. It varies on a case-by-case basis, but this typically involves running experiments, some data analysis, and even manuscript preparation. For undergraduates who stay on a specific project for more than a year, there may be opportunities to start their own independent research project.

I don't understand some of the terms used in research discussions. What do they mean?

Check out our Glossary of Common Research Terms on this page, or if you have other terms you'd like added, submit a comment on the anonymous feedback form here!

How much time should I expect to spend on research?

Time spent in the lab varies significantly depending on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, whether or not your position is for credit or pay, the responsibilities expected by your mentor, and the type of research performed by your lab. This will be listed under each project listing under the Time Commitment column, but should also be discussed explicitly with your mentor before accepting a position. Over the semester, you should not be expected to work more than 20 hours per week and, over the summer, no more than 40 hours per week.

What should I include in an email to apply for a position?

Details on how to contact a professor or graduate student may be found here.

Do I need to know any background info on the research topic to get involved?

Some knowledge is always helpful, but it is by no means a prerequisite for lab work. Individual project listings on this site may have required/suggested prerequisites as well as papers/readings to give you an idea of the topic(s) involved.

How do I make myself a competitive candidate if I’m a freshman/sophomore without previous research experience?

The earlier you start the better. If you’re able to join a lab as a freshman/sophomore and can commit to continue throughout the rest of your undergraduate time, you’ll be a very valuable candidate, regardless of prior experience. Additionally, engaging in discussions with PIs or graduate students is a good way to make you stand out.

What if nobody replies to my emails? How long should I wait before following up?

Graduate students and PI's are busy people, don't worry if you haven't immediately gotten a response! If you’re having trouble getting an email reply, you should send a follow up email ~a week later. If you still get no response from a project listing, the project may no longer be available and may need to be removed (Click here to submit a request to have it removed).

I have a research position lined up but need funding. How can I ask for funding/look for work-study positions that allow me to do research?

Please check out our resources for funding here. New resources will be added as they become available or ast the developers of this site find out about them. If you know of any additional sources of funding, please submit feedback here.

I want to apply for a research position, but I'm worried that my GPA is too low. What do I do?

Your GPA should not discourage you from research! Studies have shown that GPA may be a poor indicator of performance in research. If you do want to include some GPA, instead of mentioning your overall GPA, you may wish to list your major GPA (the GPA of core classes specific to your major) or a GPA associated with prerequisite courses and/or upper division courses. Just be clear what you are using!

I am a transfer student. How can I get a research position?

Members of the CoC are developing programs targeted towards helping transfer students obtain research positions. More to come on this soon! Additionally, if you have a something specific you'd like to see on this guide, submit feedback here.