VCU Honors College

Research Opportunities


What is research?

Research is the creation of new knowledge. It’s about asking questions. If you are curious and like to explore the who, what, where, when, why and how, then you may enjoy conducting research. Research can take place in a number of settings, such as a chemistry laboratory, a river or a library. It may even occur through observations or oral histories of how children cope with divorce. Find a topic that piques your interest and delve into it.

Why should I become involved in undergraduate research?

An undergraduate research experience is a great way to gain hands-on experience, expand upon classroom lectures and explore information not covered in a classroom setting. In addition, you are likely to improve upon a number of skills, such as critical thinking, synthesizing information, working with others and prioritizing tasks. Not to mention, it’s great way to get to know faculty members and get a feel for graduate level course work and research.

Will a research experience help me get into graduate school?

The standards for graduate school admissions are becoming increasingly more competitive. Exceptional GPAs and GRE scores are no longer enough. Undergraduate research experience as criteria for admissions is becoming more the norm rather than the exception.

I’m in the School of the Arts. Can I still participate in undergraduate research?

Yes! Undergraduate research isn’t just for science and engineering majors. It includes skills and activities associated with the arts. For instance, a student might be interested in exploring questions such as these: How does hip-hop music impact American culture? Can art therapy help children who have experienced a traumatic event?

Creative scholarship and research could also focus on art history, music theory, performance-based projects or graphic design.

Do I have to be a junior or senior before I can become involved in an undergraduate research experience?

We encourage students to start conducting research as early as possible in their college career. While some projects may require specific course requirements before you are ready to participate, other projects are open to students at all levels. In many cases, faculty members are just looking for students who are motivated and dependable.

What if I want to pursue my own project idea rather than a project offered by a faculty member?

That’s great, too! You can design your own research project, but you will need to have a faculty advisor.

Can I do a research project outside of my major department?

Of course. Students are encouraged to seek research opportunities outside of their majors. In fact, you might find that there are similarities between disciplines that you never imagined existed. For example, if you are a history major and have an interest in going to medical school, it might be intriguing to explore medical research from a historical perspective.

Can I get course credit for my research?

Yes; The Honors College and every major department have an independent study course number. Speak to the faculty advisor overseeing the project about signing up for credit, grading procedures and the time commitment requirements.

Is there an on-campus summer research program that provides housing?

Yes; the Honors Summer Undergraduate Research Program and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute provide on-campus housing and a stipend.

If you have other questions about undergraduate research, contact Jacqueline Smith-Mason, Ph.D., at (804) 828-1803 or