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How can I get involved in research as an undergraduate?

First step: Explore!

  1. Look through faculty Web sites to become familiar with the wide range of research going on in the college. Start with department Web sites or search by research area.
  2. Talk with your faculty advisor about your interests. Ask for suggestions about other faculty members to approach, project teams, or other opportunities.
  3. Once you have focused your interests, approach faculty or team members whose projects you are interested in. Be prepared before you meet with faculty.

Once you do connect with a faculty member on a project of mutual interest, you may apply together with that faculty mentor to receive Engineering Learning Initiatives funding to support your undergraduate research work. Look through our Web pages to learn about how the funding program works.

What are the benefits of participating in research as an undergraduate?

Undergraduate research experience will:

  • Enhance your problem-definition, problem-solving, and analytical skills
  • Provide active, hands-on learning, through which you can experience the application of the abstract concepts covered in your engineering courses
  • Prepare you for a rewarding career in academia or industry
  • Help you develop the skills critical to effective teamwork
  • Provide access to mentoring relationships supportive professional networks

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Where can I find a list of research opportunities?  

There is no comprehensive list. You must explore!

How should I approach a professor to ask about research opportunities?

E-mail is often the best way to communicate with a busy faculty member. If you don’t make contact right away, try to locate the faculty member’s assistant or a member of the graduate research team for advice about making contact, or visit the faculty member during office hours.

Be prepared before you approach the faculty member. You should have fully explored the available information about their research and be ready to explain why you are interested and why you would be an asset to the lab.

See our Web pages for more advice.

What are the selection criteria for undergraduate research award applicants?  

Selection criteria are fully outlined on our Web pages.

How competitive is the selection process? What are my chances of receiving an award?

The selection process is quite competitive. Depending on available funding in a given award cycle, 30 to 60% of applicants will receive awards. Take great care in preparing your application. It will be read by faculty reviewers and rated using the selection criteria referred to above.

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What can I do to be sure my research application gets approved (besides what the rating criteria say)?

Be sure to address all aspects of each application question. Be brief and to the point. Write carefully and well. Have your answers reviewed by faculty advisors or other mentors or peers before you submit your application. Clarity counts!

Unfortunately, many worthy applications will be denied funding, simply due to limited funds. Do not be discouraged; try again in the next term!

What are the expectations and requirements after receiving an undergraduate research award?  

Program requirements are fully outlined on our Web pages.

What is the average award granted to a research team? To an individual?  

Standard award amounts also appear on our Web pages.

What can undergraduate research money be used for?

Undergraduate research awards can be used to provide wages to compensate the student researcher for time spent on the project. The funding for wages allows students, who might otherwise need a part-time job, to instead spend their time getting valuable research experience.

Funds can also be requested to cover direct expenses of the research such as equipment, facilities, or supplies costs.

Where does the funding for undergraduate research awards come from?

The program is supported by the College of Engineering and by various corporate and alumni sponsors. See our list of sponsors.

Does funding provided by Engineering Learning Initiatives have to be spent in the same term?

It is expected that Engineering Learning Initiatives funding will be used during the term it is awarded. However, if your project is continuing in subsequent terms, you may apply unused funding to expenses incurred in those terms. If the award recipient’s participation in the project is ending and all award funds have not been used, those unused funds must be returned to Engineering Learning Initiatives.

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