Undergraduate Research Projects

Participating in undergraduate research is one of the best ways for a student to learn about their field, gain experience, and make contacts that will help them throughout their career. This page will help you to begin the exciting task of finding a project that is right for you!

Tips for finding an undergraduate research experience:

Step 1:

Think about your interests in your major program. What are the kinds of things that pique your interest? Is there a particular faculty member's research that you are especially excited about? What types of activities do you want to learn more about? Do you want to work mostly in the field, in the laboratory, at a computer? What activities have you enjoyed the most in the courses you have taken? Think realistically about how much time you would like to devote to a project. Attend departmental seminars and gatherings to learn more about research activities and opportunities.

Step 2: 

Do your homework! A good way to begin is to peruse the faculty directory. Make a list of the research areas and associated faculty members that seem most interesting to you. You can do the same in other departments that interest you. The more prepared you are, the better!

Step 3:

Start contacting faculty members to let them know that you are interested in their work and see if you can meet with them to discuss opportunities they may have. This may seem daunting, but this is where "doing your homework" will come in especially handy! Faculty members will be impressed that you know a bit about their work! Prepare some questions and bring them along. Take notes. Bring along your transcript so that the faculty member can see what coursework you have completed.

Step 4:

Review your options and decide on the project that will work best for you. Discuss the project in further detail with your academic advisor and with the person that will be supervising your work. Clearly establish the project expectations. What is the final goal of the project? Some faculty members will want you to complete a written summary of your results and conclusions; others might want you to prepare educational materials for future projects or give a talk at a seminar.

If you need research funding, look into funding sources. Oftentimes, there are research funds available through the department, your college, the university, or from outside sources! Your research supervisor may have funds available as well. When in doubt, ask! Being proactive will pay off.

Step 5:

If you are completing the work for academic credit, visit the Student Services office in your department (2124 Snee Hall) to enroll in course credit. In EAS, this will most likely take the form of EAS 4910 or EAS 4920. Fill out any paperwork necessary if you are being paid for your work. If you haven't worked at Cornell before, this will involve bringing in official documents that establish your identify and employment authorization.

Step 6:

While working on the project, keep in close communication with your research supervisor and/or your academic advisor. Don't hesitate to ask questions and use all the resources that are available. Graduate students in the department will also be very helpful to youtalk to them if you want a student's perspective. If you feel that this work is a good match for you, you might want to change your advisor assignment to the faculty member with whom you're working. Visit 2124 Snee Hall to make this change.

If you're being paid for your work, keep records of the hours you have worked and record them on your time card.

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