Getting Started in Research
At the University of St. Thomas, students get involved in research for a variety of reasons. Some are looking for an experience that will set them apart on graduate school applications or resumes, while others are driven by the subject itself—looking to dig deeper into their academic discipline than they can in the classroom. Faculty-mentored research at St. Thomas gives students the chance to do both, while at the same time building strong relationships between students and the professors in their fields. If you’re interested in this kind of research, here are some tips for getting started.
- Look for research-related meetings hosted by your academic department. Disciplines like biology, chemistry, and psychology typically host meetings in the fall where faculty members share about their current research and opportunities for getting involved.
- Get involved in the academic club for your discipline. Many of these clubs also host meetings related to faculty-mentored research. Participating will also give you the opportunity to network with other undergraduates who are further along in their academic careers, and may have worked on faculty-mentored research in the past.
- Express your interest in research to a faculty member or department chair.Research opportunities are competitive, and often go to those students who are proactive in seeking them out. Check your academic department’s website to see if it has more information about faculty research interests so you have a good idea of which faculty member(s) you would like to approach.
- Start seeking opportunities well in advance. Faculty begin making plans for summer research as early as January, and application deadlines for summer Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program opportunities come up quickly after J-Term (typically in mid-February). Our fall and spring semester grants are awarded about six months in advance as well. Keep in mind that you will need to give yourself plenty of time to identify a faculty mentor and work together in developing your project before you apply.
- Keep seeking opportunities. You may not find an opportunity to carry out faculty-mentored research right away, but persistence and diligence can pay off. For example, every year there are students who apply for—and receive—undergraduate research grants, despite not being selected in the past. To increase your odds, stay connected to your academic department through its events and clubs. Volunteer when research-related opportunities come up. Ask for feedback and apply what you learn. And if you’ve tried the steps listed here and are still having trouble finding a faculty-mentored research opportunity in your academic discipline, please let us know.
Interested in learning more about the types of research carried out in your academic discipline? Here are a few places you can look:
- Inquiry at UST is a poster session that happens each spring and fall, to showcase research carried out by our grantees. Other undergraduate researchers are invited to share their work as well. Abstracts of the research projects presented at past events are available here. Attend a session to meet student researchers, learn how they pursued their work, and get ideas about what you can accomplish.
- Disciplines like Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, Engineering and others have in-depth information on their websites about undergraduate research. Click on their highlighted links to learn more.
- For additional examples of undergraduate research carried out in a specific discipline, contact our office.