Undergraduate Research: How to Get Started

Undergraduate research can begin as early as the freshman year. You should start by thinking about your skills, education and interests. Focus on classes you have taken that you found interesting, or subject areas that you have always wanted to explore further. Once you have identified your areas of interest, look through the list of faculty research interests for your department (these are linked on the previous page). You should also talk with your academic advisor. Your advisor can help you clarify your research interests, abilities, provide information about time commitments, and help you identify and approach appropriate faculty mentors. You can also talk to one or more professors in a field of study that is of particular interest.

When you have identified one or more faculty members you might like to work with, visit them during their office hours or schedule an appointment to discuss your research interests. Be prepared to talk about why you wish to participate in the program and what you hope to gain from the experience. Be honest about your motivation toward participating in this program. The faculty member, in turn, can tell you what his or her research has to offer you. Prior research experience is not necessary. Faculty are looking for students who genuinely want to participate in research and who will be energetic, reliable, and capable.

Undergraduate students may work with a faculty mentor on research for much of their undergraduate careers. A student’s research may lead to a thesis for Departmental Honors, but preparing a thesis is not a requirement to participate.

Graduate students interested in beginning research are strongly encouraged to consult with the appropriate graduate program director. You should then talk about research with one or more professors in the field that interests you. Graduate student research may lead to a master’s thesis, but a thesis is not a requirement of all master’s degrees. For those graduate students who choose to participate in research, enrollment in a thesis track is encouraged.