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Office of Undergraduate Research

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I work on a project outside of my major?

Absolutely. You will find that many research projects, especially larger ones, will need students from different backgrounds and with different skills. For example, an engineering product development project may need someone with knowledge of psychology and human factors to research human interaction with the product. Having said this, there is a bias toward working with students with an interest in the area being researched.


What if I have my own idea for a project?

Students may work with a faculty member on an existing research project or on a project based on the student’s own ideas. You must have a faculty advisor for your project. If you want to pursue your own project, find a faculty advisor who is interested in your topic. In some disciplines, it is more common to work with the advisor on an existing project than to create your own. In other disciplines, it’s the other way around. In either case, spend time talking to your advisor and other knowledgeable people about your project. Very often in research you end up doing something rather different from what you set out to do. That’s part of the fun!


How do I find a faculty member with whom to do research?

There are several ways to find a faculty mentor. Talk with your advisor and see whom they recommend. Talk to research professors in departments close to your interests and see if any are doing research that interests you. Ask your TAs and fellow students about their experiences. Check departmental web sites for departmental events where you might learn more. Go to departmental seminars.


Can I get funding for an independent project?

Yes. Please take some time to look through the opportunities listed under the Research Funding heading on the left-hand menu column. It is also a good idea to speak with the faculty members working on the project and those working on associated topics. They might know of potential local and external funding opportunities.


Can I get credit for my research?

Often, yes. Research experiences are part of the Independent Studies Program; check the College's Internship page for more information and contact CCAS (College Center for Academic Support) before you begin a research project.


Can I get funding to go to a conference?

Often, yes. Start with your research advisor. In many instances, your research advisor may have funds available to support a trip to a conference to present your work and/or to learn more about your area of interest. If your advisor is not able to provide funding, he or she may be able to help you by making a request to the department or suggesting funding sources to which you might apply. Some departments and programs offer awards or travel grants in support of undergraduate research. In addition, several of the Fellowships and Awards described on this web site can provide funds used to attend a conference. Also, each year the College sends 25-35 students to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. This is a conference you might consider attending. Finally, you may apply for an award that will provide partial support to attend a conference in order to present your work. Please see the Research Presentation Award page for instructions and application form.


I'm not an engineering or science major. Can I still participate?

Definitely. You will find that faculty members in virtually every department at the University conduct research and may need undergraduate researchers to assist them. Also, many departments strongly encourage students to pursue research on their own ideas under the mentorship of a faculty member. A good place to start is the research by department section of this web site.


Do I have to be an upperclassman to do research?

No. If you are truly passionate about a certain research area, it will help to express your interest as soon as possible. While some projects may require that you have completed certain classes or labs, it doesn’t hurt to express your interest and ask faculty members if they are willing to train and accept students with less experience.


What is the suggested timetable for participating in undergraduate research?

There is no “right” answer for this. A timetable that works for many students is the following:

In your First Year: Gain some basic knowledge through your classes and course projects that could be applied to a research project. Most projects will require knowledge from different fields of study, not just your major. Investigate the research being conducted by the faculty members teaching your classes. Determine which research projects interest you personally and express your interest to faculty members.

As a Sophomore: Begin to look more closely at research opportunities in your field of interest. Take more courses by a faculty member whose research interests you. Begin working on a resume that outlines the applicable courses you have taken and class projects you have done. Talk with a faculty member about the possibility of doing an independent research project and begin familiarizing yourself with their work. Around December, look into summer research programs, most of which come with a stipend, or a paid summer research assistantship, which might continue into the next fall.

As a Junior: Take an independent research project for credit, pay, or experience. Consider taking on a project that lasts for more than a semester. Consider taking additional courses that will assist in your research field. Look into summer research programs.

As a Senior: Continue on the same or a new project. Submit an abstract to a conference detailing the work you have done and/or will finish this year. Include your research project as experience when you apply for employment or graduate school.


What is a Barth-Crapsey Award?

Barth-Crapsey awards are given to encourage high quality independent research by UR undergraduates in the humanities and social sciences, especially in the fields of government, politics and political history, and literature, and on topics relating to the historical and cultural heritage of the Rochester / Monroe County area. Awards of up to $600 will be made to support research projects in the above areas. Each project must involve a faculty advisor and may be for credit or non-credit. For more information, please go to the Barth-Crapsey page.


What is a Research & Innovation Grant?

Research & Innovation Grants provide research expenses of up to $3,000 for undergraduate students working with a faculty sponsor. The grants are awarded by the Admissions Office upon entrance to the University. If you have received a Portable Research Grant or a Research & Innovation Grant and have questions about disbursement, please go to the Research & Innovation Grant page.