Research for Undergrads

There are many ways to get involved with research at the U of M. Keep in mind your answers to the previous questions when thinking about which approach makes the most sense for you.

  • Paid positions – Working hourly in a lab can be a great way to get initial exposure, training, and experience. Even starting as a dishwasher lets you see how the lab functions and gives you exposure to the work and people of a lab. These opportunities are often posted on the UMN Office of Human Resources site. Search for student jobs.
  • Volunteering – Most students start out volunteering in a lab.
  • Course credit – ME 4090 (2-4 credits)
  • UROP Scholarships – The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program provides students with semester-long funding for research projects. Applications are accepted twice per year, once near the beginning of Fall semester, and once near the beginning of Spring semester.
  • Summer REUs – REUs can be a great opportunity to engage with labs locally, or nationally. Most opportunities are full-time programs that last approximately 10 weeks, with applications due between December-February.

Contacting Faculty Members

It is beneficial to do your homework and make a good first impression. Once you choose the faculty you want to contact, read a couple of their most recent publications. You may not understand everything in the paper, but you will understand some of it. This will help you determine that you want to work in someone’s lab, or may eliminate particular choices. After you read some papers, email the faculty member and ask to set up an appointment to discuss their research and undergraduate opportunities in their lab. Keep in mind the following tips:

  • Be courteous. Address the faculty member as “Dr.” or “Professor.”
  • State the type of research opportunity you are seeking, how many hours a week you can work, and why you are interested in their research. Be sure to articulate how your interests match with their research.
  • Attaching an unofficial transcript and/or resume is acceptable, but not always required.
  • If a faculty member does not respond within a week, it is appropriate to send a reminder email.
  • Be professional, but don’t be afraid to show you’re enthusiastic.