Our motto isn’t just “Driven to Discover” because we like alliteration—at the University of Minnesota, we truly pride ourselves on cultivating curiosity, igniting inquiry and investigation, and exploring via experimentation.
Research as an undergraduate student is a fantastic opportunity to connect with existing projects and the faculty and researchers leading them (or launch your own!) as well as make connections with others who are interested in emerging possibilities and challenges within and across fields. Whether your future goals involve getting into the workforce, applying to graduate or professional programs, or something else altogether, undergraduate research is a great way to practice and build skills from critical and systems thinking to community problem-solving.
First, you should explore how a research experience may be useful for your future goals (or how it can help determine what those goals could be!).
Search for job descriptions that interest you to see whether research experience is listed in any of the required or preferred qualifications.
Talk to professionals in jobs or work areas that interest you and ask them whether they'd recommend undergraduate research.
Consider what you will want to have, understand, and/or be able to do after completing your research experience.
Do you want to publish or help publish a paper? Create a new product or tool? Build professional networking relationships? Apply to a scholarship or fellowship that requires research? Improve your technical writing and communication skills? Explore an interdisciplinary or non-CSCI research project or topic?
Next, you will want to decide what kind of research interests you!
Do I want to work on my own, with a faculty mentor, or as part of a group?
Do I want to work a few hours per week or commit to a larger project?
What kind of skills can I contribute and what kind of skills or knowledge do I want to develop?
Is there a research question I’m passionate about that I could do independently, or would I prefer to learn from an existing project?
Finally, you will need to decide when to pursue research.
Most CS&E students start looking for research opportunities after they have been accepted to the major (typically second semester sophomores and up).
You can participate in research over a summer term, or can look for opportunities during an academic semester.
Talk to your CSCI advisor about balancing degree requirements with research.
Research opportunities in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering
Apply for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP)
UROP provides undergraduates from every college, major, and discipline the opportunity to partner with a faculty member on an independent research project. Students receive financial aid for your time and work.
View more opportunities through the Office of Undergraduate Research
In addition to the UROP, the Office of Undergraduate Research facilitates other programs that facilitate undergraduate participation in faculty-mentored research projects.
Check for other student job opportunities at the University
Departments outside of computer science often need people who know programming and data analysis. Be sure to check the current online postings regularly for departments that interest you.
Additional research opportunities outside the University of Minnesota
Check out these other options to conduct computer science research
I'm interested in non-CSCI research areas. What should I do?
That's totally fine! You can research absolutely anything, especially as computer science is becoming more and more interdisciplinary. Check the website of the specific departments you are interested in, or check the University's student employment website.
Other helpful tips / things to consider
Check in with your CSCI TAs and ask them whether they've done or are currently doing research
Talk to your faculty and instructors for their advice on the best ways to get involved in research
Research can happen outside of structured or “official” programs and projects. If you’re curious and have a research question, explore it independently! Students who have done independent research can put together papers/articles and then share them on online portfolios, GitHub, LinkedIn, etc.
Sample email template
Directly contacting faculty members can be a great way to become involved in research and to build relationships with professionals in your field.
Your email should:
have an informative subject line
be formal: Dear Dr. Smith; Sincerely, Your Name
not use Mrs. or Ms.
NOT have slang, abbreviations, or emoticons
if applying for an opening:
address any qualifications the professor is looking for
demonstrate your experience
if asking for a research opportunity:
state specifically your interest in that research group (you need to read the professor's website)
explain why research is important for your goals
ask to schedule a meeting or say that you will be coming to office hours
DO NOT SEND THIS EMAIL
Hi First Name,
My name is Name and I am a major in Major. Is there space in your lab for an undergraduate? If so, what is the pay rate?
DO SEND AN EMAIL LIKE THIS
Subject: Meeting to discuss undergraduate research opportunities in topic
Dear Dr./Professor Last Name,
I am a year student at university majoring in major. List how you found out about the professor's research. Express your interest in specific paper or topic. I would appreciate the chance to talk with you about your research in topic of interest and about possible undergraduate opportunities in your lab.
My experience in researchexperience or class confirms my intention to develop my research skills and goal. I know you are very busy, however I would like to schedule an appointment or drop by your office hours on day and time.
I have attached my resume and unofficial transcript. Please let me know if there is any other information I can provide. I look forward to talking to you soon.