For Students

Below is a list of frequently asked questions, which have been answered by our amazing team of Undergraduate Research Ambassadors. For additional help, feel free to visit us during our virtual undergraduate research drop-in advising hours.

Frequently Asked Questions

Undergraduate research experiences promote student engagement in ways that traditional classroom instruction cannot. Engaging in undergraduate research or creative work with a faculty mentor can help students build confidence, develop problem-solving skills, refine career interests, and facilitate important connections for graduate school or employment after graduation. Many undergraduate researchers become experts in a topic they are interested in, make valuable connections with faculty members, and gain leadership experience. Students often get paid for their time doing research and sometimes travel to collect data and/or present their work.

Yes! There are several ways to learn more about how to get started in research during your first year. You can visit this webpage, attend our Research Ready workshop, or swing by our drop-in undergraduate research advising hours. First-year students are also eligible to participate in the URSA Engage Program, a program designed to provide first and second-year students, and transfer students in their first year at OSU, opportunities to pursue research or a creative activity under the guidance of an OSU faculty mentor. Students who are selected will receive an award of $750 and their faculty mentors will receive $250 for project-related costs. The program is available to undergraduates and mentors at all OSU campuses and across all academic disciplines. 

Yes, many students who engage in undergraduate research are compensated financially! However, whether you are paid (and the way in which you are paid) are specific to each research program and faculty mentor. Some organized undergraduate research programs give students one-time financial awards. Some faculty mentors formally hire students as OSU hourly employees. Some mentors expect that a student will volunteer on their research team for a certain amount of time before receiving pay to ensure the student is committed.

We recognize that many students cannot afford to work without pay and encourage students to advocate for themselves and communicate with their faculty mentors about their needs. Please visit our drop-in advising hours if you’d like help navigating this conversation with your mentor!

If your mentor is unable to pay you, you could offer to work with your faculty mentor to apply for funding sources. You should also let your mentor know if you could be hired through the Federal Work-Study Program. Many faculty members are surprised to know that 75% of the student’s pay would be provided through Work-Study dollars, leaving the faculty mentor responsible for only 25% of the student’s pay. More information about how to use Work-Study to fund undergraduate research can be found here (info for students) and here (info for mentors).

Yes! Doing undergraduate research in a discipline that is different from your academic major is a great way to explore career pathways you are curious about and learn about a new topic without having to change your major. We know an amazing student who is majoring in Biochemistry and Biophysics and completed one research project on the motility of motor proteins and one on Tibetan Buddhism! Imagine the interesting things she gets to talk about in her next job interview! It never hurts to expand the number of topics you are knowledgeable about!

Lab meetings or research team meetings take different forms depending on how your mentor likes to structure them. In many cases, all available members of a research team (e.g. undergraduate researchers, graduate students, post-docs, faculty mentor) attend these meetings. They usually occur weekly. It is common for the attendees to go around the room and take turns updating each other on what they have been working on over the past week. These regular meetings serve as a space for everyone to communicate about the progress being made, to ask each other for feedback, and to inform the research team members about big updates (e.g. upcoming research presentations, safety trainings, dissertation defenses, etc.).

Research is for everyone! The wonderful thing about undergraduate research is that it is extremely versatile and flexible, allowing you to decide exactly when you want to get started. Some students start as early as their first term at OSU! The advantage of starting early is you have more time to create strong relationships with colleagues on your research team. You also have more time to complete a more substantial project and your experience allows you to become an expert in the topic. You may even have the opportunity a mentor newer undergraduate researchers who join your team!

Undergraduates at OSU can present their research at two on-campus events each year: Celebrating Undergraduate Excellence (CUE) in spring and the Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium at the end of summer. These are excellent opportunities to develop communication skills, network with other students and faculty, and gain confidence when speaking about one's scholarly work. OSU students often present at both of these events! 

Students also present at other symposia or conferences outside of OSU (sometimes internationally!). Click here for a list of other conferences that you may want to present at.

If the graduate program you’re applying for is a research-based program, then it’s very likely that previous experience in research will be expected. This may not be the case for all graduate programs, but having research experience can strengthen your CV, provide connections for letters of recommendation, and increase your chances to obtain a research position in graduate school.

Start exploring the types of research being done at OSU and think about how they align with your interests. Visiting resource fairs, events, workshops, and your professor’s office hours are all great options for networking and exploring the research happening within each college at Oregon State University. You should also check out our list of organized undergraduate research programs to see if there are any you might be interested in applying for.

Find a system for organizing your responsibilities that works for you! One great way to organize meetings, courses, research hours, and deadlines is using your Google calendar. Block off chunks of time in your calendar for your research hours and meetings. Make sure to block off certain hours each day to get homework or projects done as well!

Your mentor should understand that coursework comes first. If coursework is getting stressful, reach out to your mentor, and explain the situation. Hopefully, you can work together to plan for when you will get caught up on the research tasks you’ve committed to completing. The most important thing is maintaining open communication with your mentor.

One of the most important aspects of a successful research experience is maintaining clear and open communication with your research mentor. It is important to ask questions if you are unsure about something and let your mentor know if something is on your mind.

You are also much more likely to be successful in research when you enjoy the work you are doing and are genuinely interested in the topic! Pick a topic you want to learn more about. If you find out you don't enjoy the topic, you can always try something else. Either way, it's a great learning experience!

Many faculty mentors do not expect undergraduates to have prior research experience when joining a new research team. Most of the faculty mentors we’ve talked with say they are simply looking for students who are self-motivated, hard-working, enthusiastic, positive, and are sincerely interested in the topic. They also appreciate it when students are easy to work with and eager to learn new things. You can be all of those things without having previous research experience!

You will likely connect with a mentor the same way that everyone else does! Click here for information on how to get started. The only difference is that once you meet with a potential mentor, you will want to let them know that you are looking for an honors thesis project. That way, the mentor will know you are committed to a long-term project and they will be able to help you brainstorm ideas for a project that will be suitable for the honors thesis requirement.

If you aren’t able to join the research team you wanted, it is most likely because the mentor you reached out to does not have the available time or resources to mentor an additional student. Don’t get discouraged! You are building resilience and finding a mentor will be easier the second time! There are many amazing mentors at OSU. Reach out to someone new and visit us at our drop-in advising hours if you want support!