In this path to an apprenticeship-style research experience, students take the initiative to contact professors whose research interests them.
This path can be challenging because students may not know where to begin or how to navigate the system. It is also challenging because the experience is likely to be unpaid, especially in the beginning.
Achieving an undergraduate research position is all about knowing your passion and pursing it by talking to people with shared interests.
How to Start
- Generate a list of professors whose research interests you.
- Talk to professors and graduate students you know about your research interests and ask if they can think of anyone you should meet.
- Search for faculty using UC’s Research Directory or peruse UC’s many research centers and institutes to identify faculty whose work interests you. Try several searches using different keywords that describe your major and interests.
- Check with your major department for research opportunities we may not know about. Most departments have an “undergraduate director." This person is likely to have the best information about opportunities in the department. You can find out who the person is by searching online or by calling your major department. If your department does not have an undergraduate director, someone in your department’s office should be able to help you find the right person.
- Email each of the professors on your list.
- Choose four or five professors to start with.
- Express interest in their work.
- Consider relaying your previous research experience (classroom counts!).
- Indicate your interest in meeting them or one of their graduate students or research assistants to learn more.
- Offer dates/times you are available to meet
Faculty enjoy working with students who are genuinely interested in the work and can commit the time and energy it takes to make a meaningful contribution to the project.
Pro tip: Do not ask if a position is available; the answer is likely to be no. However, genuine interest may get you a foot in the door which can lead to an approved project for pay or course credit.
If you try this and it doesn’t work for you, contact Dr. Megan Lamkin, Program Director for Undergraduate Research, for assistance.