Before undertaking an undergraduate research project, there are a few strategies that you should consider.
Define your interests
- Is there something that you feel passionate enough about to explore?
- What are your favorite courses?
- Have you had a class assignment or paper that you can expand upon?
- Have you attended the Berglund Honors Seminar Series to learn about faculty research interests in various disciplines?
Explore undergraduate research opportunities
- Research and creative scholarship happens in every department at VCU, from the School of the Arts to the Department of History. Most departmental websites feature descriptions of faculty research interests and undergraduate research opportunities.
- Take advantage of undergraduate research initiatives.
- The Honors Summer Undergraduate Research Program provides access to a wide range of research opportunities during the summer.
- The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has research opportunities for students pursuing math, science and engineering programs, as well as pre-professional programs.
- The Department of Psychology has many opportunities for students to participate in undergraduate research through their PSYC494 course.
- Various undergraduate research opportunities exist within the School of Engineering, including paid and volunteer research positions and for-credit research opportunities.
Pause for a moment before contacting faculty
- Approach faculty with respect and be mindful of their time. Visit during office hours or schedule an appointment. Dress appropriately for your meeting; although it is not a job interview, you should dress presentably.
- Read faculty profiles on departmental Web pages to learn about their research and publications.
- Make sure that you can articulate your research interests.
- If your initial communication is by email, use a respectful tone. Address the faculty member as Dr. or Professor. In addition, don’t write – HEY Dr. XX.
- Include a few sentences about yourself and your research interests.
- Don’t send out mass emails with a general statement, such as “I’m looking for a research project. Do you have one?”
Remember to …
Think about your availability to do research. Don’t overestimate how much time you can commit to a research project.
Stellar grades are necessary, but professionalism is just as important. Faculty members are looking for students who are not just high achievers and interested in their research, but who are also reliable and can follow instructions.
Don’t get discouraged if you can’t find a research opportunity right away. If a faculty member doesn’t have a position for you, he or she may be able to recommend another faculty member.