Summer Research Opportunities for Students

This page contains information on how students can get involved in research. While many students begin their research experience in the summer, most projects are continuous throughout the year, and students should feel free to contact faculty about working in their labs at any time

In the summer, the UST Chemistry Department becomes a vibrant research community. 30-40 students, ranging in experience from new freshmen to seniors who have worked 3-4 years, work full time with faculty. We will have weekly meetings of the whole group to share our findings and discuss research issues. We also meet with students at other local colleges. There are also have several social functions we do as a group throughout the summer.

The links below will take you to information on the investigations being conducted by faculty and their research groups, as well as information on expectations and the application process. All students, regardless of experience, are encouraged to apply. If you have not previously conducted research in the department, you should talk to at least 3 faculty members so that you can make an informed decision as to which projects interest you the most.

Brief Summaries of Faculty Research. This information will give you an idea of which projects might interest you the most and help you decide which faculty to speak with about research. You should talk to at least 3 faculty.

Information on pay and work expectations.

Apply by completing the following form by noon on Friday, December 14, 2018.  Any questions can be directed to Dr. Eric Fort (

It is our intention to give each UST summer research student the opportunity to earn the full summer stipend that is set aside for him or her. In the best circumstances this would be paid to you as a stipend, a grant given to you in order to help you with your expenses of the summer and to contribute to your tuition for the next school year.  The summer research opportunity is first and foremost an educational experience for you.  The learning and growing that you do as a scientist will be much more valuable than anything you could do financially for yourself this summer.  We hope that you will take full advantage of that opportunity and appreciate that you benefit in proportion to the effort that you put into your project. 

However, the way that you will be paid seems to be inconsistent with this idea of a scholarship or professional stipend.  The pay schedule is set up on an hourly basis.  Since the University handles the money, administrative policies impose certain rules on how all student workers are paid during the summer.  This is unfortunate since it seems to suggest that a research assistantship is the type of position in which a person punches a clock and is rewarded by hourly wages.  We feel that notion is contrary to the spirit and purpose of the enterprise.  When there is an important experiment to be done a good scientist does not postpone it just because it might run a few minutes beyond "quitting time".  We think of you as much more than hired labor.  You are not our "go-fers", but rather our junior colleagues.  As faculty we are extremely interested in the science that we do here, but your development as scientists is equally important to us.  So, although the University has this bookkeeping process that gives the appearance that you are hired help, that is not our attitude toward you at all.

Where does this leave you?  This seems to put you in a funny position.  On the one hand we are asking you to immerse yourself in your project without concern for the clock and on the other hand the University wants you to clock in and out for the hours you work.  It is an apparent contradiction like the dual nature of light that we are all just going to have to live with.  Yet, there is a question of fairness and accountability that still remains.  How much time should you be expected to work and how do you count your time for the purpose of getting paid?  Let's try to clarify what is expected of you with regard to some specific issues. 

Daily starting and quitting times and lunch.  We cannot pay overtime, so you will need to make sure that you "clock-in" and "clock-out" so that you record no more than 40 hours per week. The actual times you work may vary, but the general rule is that you should only be working in the lab when your advisor is available to supervise you. Exceptions to this must be cleared with your advisor.  If you stay in the building for a quick lunch, there is no need to clock out.  If, however, you leave the building to get lunch, you should clock-out and clock back in when you return.

Vacation and total days of work.  We expect that you will be working in the lab or library for the equivalent of 10-11 work weeks.  If you want to take a vacation in the middle of that time, that usually can be arranged.  Talk to your advisor a few weeks in advance to make sure that the timing does not cause a problem and schedule the days that you will work instead.  Again, we cannot pay over-time, so you can't make up lost time by working more than 40 hours in a week.  If you have any questions, talk to your advisor.

Memorial Day, July 4th, and other National Holidays.  The labs will be closed these days, so you won't be allowed to work those days.

Homework.  Occasionally you will be taking your notebook home to write up results, to plan for the next day's work, or to do some calculations.  There are also times that you will be reading books, manuals or journal articles at home.  Do not count that time as officially "on the job".  That is part of being a professional scientist.  It may be true that a detailed accounting of hours would make your hourly rate look rather puny, but you are getting experience that is really invaluable.

Final Report and Poster.  Each student will prepare a written report with help from their advisor summarizing the results of the summer's work.  The money associated with the final pay period of the summer will not be released until this report is completed to the advisor's satisfaction.  Students will also prepare a poster summarizing their work.  The poster session is usually scheduled for the 1st or second Friday in August.

Continuing Your Research.  Student researchers are expected to continue their work during the academic year following the summer.  Research is most effective when practiced continuously during the calendar year, as opposed to a concentrated summer of work followed by nine months of inactivity.  In fact, some projects can only be performed successfully if carried out on a regular schedule 12 months per year.  Many projects will not be complete at the end of the summer, thus extending the project into the school year provides the opportunity to bring your project to its proper conclusion.  This will also help you prepare your work for presentation to an external audience such as the American Chemical Society National Meeting or the Winchell Symposium of the MN Academy of Sciences.  Your time commitment during the academic year may involve registration in a chemistry research course (Chem 491), working for pay on a research grant or a collaborative inquiry grant from the URCS, or simply volunteering for a few hours per week to collect additional data and discuss results as your schedule allows.  You and your advisor can discuss this during the summer.

Research credit.  At least two credits of research (CHEM 491) are required for any student who wants to earn the ACS certified BS chemistry degree.  A summer research experience satisfies that requirement.