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Research Opportunities

 

Most academic researchers work as university professors or college tutors in addition to the research work they do. The research process itself can take three different forms:

  • Exploratory research is carried out with the aim of identifying new problems

  • Constructive research is based around developing solutions or answers to a current problem

  • Empirical research looks to study the feasibility of a specific solution and how long it remains relevant.

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES

Nearly all of the faculty members at colleges and universities have active research programs, and undergraduate students are strongly encouraged to participate in ongoing research.  Research opportunities are available for students in all of our majors. Working as a research assistant provides hands-on opportunities to learn about research methods, see how the knowledge in your textbooks was generated, build skills in scientific programming, data analysis, and science communication, and develop close mentorship relationships with professors and doctoral students. Working in a lab might also:

  • Help you develop your academic and research interests

  • Identify potential future academic and professional opportunities

  • Improve future graduate school applications (research experience is often expected)

  • Help you develop specialized research skills (e.g., eye-tracking, fMRI, computational modeling)

  • Provide opportunities to collaborate with other students

  • Provide an opportunity to develop a close mentorship relationship with a faculty member, which is a great way to get advice on your educational and professional goals, and can lead to letters of recommendation--an important part of graduate school applications. 

 

 Steps to get involved with Academic Research on a college campus.

  1. Reach out to the Undergraduate Research Office, and/or your school’s undergraduate coordinator. They can guide and assist you in finding a research position. 

  2. Determine your interest. Think about what you want to do, and learn about research in your chosen field. A lot of research incorporates skills from an array of disciplines.

  3. Check out the research of the faculty. Look at faculty and department webpages for information on their research.​ Talk to faculty you have or have had courses with about their research and the research of their colleagues. Don't limit yourself to just research within your major. Keep a broad perspective when searching for opportunities.

  4. Identify four or five faculty members whose research interests you. Gather information about their research, such as research aims, methods and findings. Collect journal articles, books, and presentations published by the professors. If possible, attend one of their lectures, performances, or productions. If you cannot find faculty members, contact the Teacher Assistant.

  5. Decide on the time commitment you can make to your research. Determine how many hours per week, weeks per semester, semesters per year you can dedicate to your project. As a general rule of thumb, one credit hour translates to approximately three hours in lab per week. 

  6. Contact the faculty members. Write an email or visit them in office hours. Be sure to identify the project and some of the information you have learned about their research. List your year in school, major, and relevant courses you have taken or training you have acquired, if any, and ask to meet to talk more about the project.

  7. Follow up. The key is passion, dependability and being personable. Answer questions honestly, have questions ready for them, and thank them for their time.

  8. Understand your expectations and those of your faculty mentor. Who will you be reporting to? What will your specific duties be? Is this an individual project? What do they consider an "A" performance? What additional books or articles do they recommend that you read?

  9. Present your work. You really haven’t done research until you share it with the world. Imagine if Google or Facebook had never left the dorm room. Find out how to present your work at an academic conference or get published in a journal.

  10. After a successful research experience, get out and encourage others! Be a role model, and help others do what you've done.