What is undergraduate research?
Undergraduate research (UGR) is scholarly study in any discipline in which inquiry, discovery, and creativity culminate in advancements in science, technology, the arts, or humanities. It is the behavioral endeavor employed only by humans and, in this case, it is undergraduates who work under the mentorship of proven scholars, experts, and professionals. Any undergraduate may participate in UGR. Students from all disciplines can engage in the excitement of scholarly research.
- Going on archeological digs to learn about past cultures, societies or the evolution of life on Earth
- Designing complementary art for unique architectural settings
- Developing new ways to manage wildlife and plant populations and their habitat
- Studying ancestral lineages using the tools of modern genetics
- Defining product design based on marketing data
- Reinterpreting a literary author’s intentions based on the site where it was written
- Finding ways to grow more food on less land with less water, fertilizers and pesticides
- Predicting stock market shifts based on uncertainties of the last four years
- Developing inexpensive textile fibers that are soft, durable and easily cleaned
- Engineering nano-machines for administering potent drugs in small amounts into the body
6 Steps to Getting Involved
Determine Your Interests
Think about what you want to do. What problems do you want to solve? What are you curious about? What fascinates you? Research is interdisciplinary, so don’t be afraid to consider opportunities outside your major.
Look at college and department websites – all of them have a research tab on their homepage. Explore current projects, labs, research groups, and creative knowledge being developed. What work is happening that aligns with your interests and excites you?
Identify five to seven researchers whose work excites you. These might be faculty associated with the research projects you just investigated. Or it might be a professor you had for a particular course. Become knowledgeable about their work – review goals, methods, findings. You could even attend lectures, performances, or productions of theirs.
Contact Potential Mentors
Write an email to schedule a meeting (or ask about office hour availability). Let the faculty member know you would like to learn more about their research. This isn’t the time to sell yourself yet – that’s coming!
Meet in Person
Use this as an opportunity to learn more about the research: What motivated the faculty member to do this work? What excites them? What plans they have for the future. If you are excited about what they are learning, show your enthusiasm.
Make the Ask
If you’re interested in contributing to the research, ask if there’s an opportunity to be involved as an undergraduate researcher. If there isn’t, ask if the faculty member could connect you with a colleague or two who might have projects that align with your interests.
Reach Out for Assistance
Staff and Student Ambassadors from the Office of Undergraduate Research are happy to help!