How to Get Involved in Undergraduate Research

Getting involved in research can seem like an indimidating process. How do you find opportunities? How do you approach a potential a mentor? How do you balance research with classes and work? What about funding? 

Here are some resources to help answer those questions and more.

Let's start with a video by one of our Ambassadors, Zoe Allan, an undergraduate student already involved in research. She has tips on getting started.


First steps: Finding a Mentor and a Project

First, students need to identify a potential mentor and project of interest.  To do this, they should consult their advisor or search OSU websites. Most professors have a short description of their work online.  Then, they need to contact professors and express their interest in the professor’s research.  Do this via e-mail or by visiting the professor's office hours. The student should introduce themselves, express interest in the professor's research and the student's intent on being involved, and ask if there is an opening or need for help on the project. Be sure to read up on the professor's research in advance and to be professional and respectful when contacting the professor. The professor may invite the student to have an interview before beginning to get involved, and the may suggest that the student start as a volunteer in their lab or research project to learn more before taking on a definitive role as a researcher. Use this opportunity to ask questions and explore whether this mentor and their research are actually a person and project with which the student would enjoy working with and learning from!


Getting Started:

Once the student has found a mentor and begun taking on a role in their research, be sure to discuss commitments and level or depth of involvement. Set clear expectations for the number of hours the student works to support the research project, their specific tasks and goals, and potential outcomes of the project. Honor these expectations. If they cannot be met, discuss compromises. Again, be respectful and communicate clearly in these discussions. If the student is interested indeveloping their own project with the mentor and/or working on a thesis project through the research position, mention this interest so that it can be discussed in the future as the student's role solidifies and grows.


Funding and Time Management

It may seem overwhelming to add research to a schedule already packed with classes and work. Fortunately, there are several opporutinities to get funding through scholarships and grants to help support research projects. In some cases, a mentor may be able to pay the student for assisting in research. Research can also be used for class credits. Check out the Funding and Course Credits page for more information! Be sure to COMMUNICATE with the mentor about any financial and academic priorities - they will more than likely be willing or even happy to help a student fit research hours to a class schedule and to offer assistance in finding funding, for example they may be a good source for providing letters of recommendation.