Discover. Create. Explore.
Is Undergraduate Research Important?
Undergraduate researchers engage in intellectual pursuits alongside faculty in their field of interest. As an undergraduate researcher, you can:
- GAIN experience in your field
- PREPARE for graduate or professional school
- DEVELOP problem-solving skills
- CONTRIBUTE to the knowledge in your discipline
- BUILD relationships with professionals in your field
Should I get involved in Undergraduate Research?
Undergraduate research is not for everyone. Research professors need students that are committed to their projects and are willing to work hard to get results. It is rewarding work but you should expect to commit a significant amount of your leisure time to your project. There are several things you should think about: (1) are you really interested in research or do you want to do it so you can add it to your resume? (2) are you willing to give up some of your leisure/social time to be able to work in a research project?, and (3) do you want to work in a lab or would you rather carry out your research in the library?
Do I need research experience to get into medical school?
You can be accepted into an M.D. program without research experience. Medical schools require shadowing and volunteering but they do not require research. However, if you are truly interested in research the experience can improve your application.
Students that want to apply to an M.D./Ph.D. program are judged differently by the admissions board. These students must have significant research experience.
Do I need research experience to apply to graduate school?
Students that intend to apply to graduate programs must have research experience. This is particularly true for science graduate programs.
What is more important, research or class grades?
Without a good GPA (> 3.0) it will be difficult to get into a good graduate program. Research can help in some instances, but the student would do better spending time improving their grades and their GPA. Acceptance into graduate programs are evaluated case by case but, in general, programs tend to prefer students with a strong academic background.
Should I start research my freshman year?
This is up to you. As Director of the Science Research Fellows, I recommend to use your first semester to get acclimated to Baylor, learn all our Baylor traditions, go to the football games (tailgates are great) and make new friends. You can use this time to look up some of the research labs you are interested in joining. Visit their department website and look up the research professors within that department.
Keep in mind that to join some labs you will need to finish specific classes first. For example, a biochemistry lab may prefer students that have taken the first semester of biochemistry so that would put students in their second or third year. The same thing is true for an organic chemistry research lab - the experience will be better if you know and understand organic chemistry. Some labs do not have requirements and are happy to take freshmen. Make sure you ask the professor which classes they requires of their undergraduate students.
Is working in a lab the only way to get research experience?
No. Working in a lab is only one way to get research experience, but not the only way. We have many wonderful professors in arts, religion, history, philosophy, journalism, and many other departments that need undergraduate students to do their research. Go ahead and check their websites and talk to them. They are more willing to give you a bit more freedom choosing your preferred topic (as long as it falls within their research interests).
How can I get started?
Identifying Potential Faculty Mentors
- IDENTIFY YOUR AREAS OF RESEARCH INTEREST
Research can be done in any field, and students are welcome to pursue opportunities inside or outside of their major. Take the time to explore different types of research by reading about faculty projects on department websites.
- TALK TO PEOPLE IN YOUR DEPARTMENT
Professors, instructors, teaching assistants, advisors, and upperclassmen may suggest possible mentors and help inspire your research interests.
- DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Utilize campus and internet resources, including the library and library website, to find recently published work from faculty who you are going to contact. Make sure you are familiar with their research interests and current projects before you contact them.
Contacting Potential Faculty Mentors
Email is often the best method to contact potential faculty mentors. Your email should contain the following information:
- Who are you? If applicable, do you have any relevant experience or recommended coursework?
- What aspects of the faculty member's research interest you? Why?
- Ask the faculty member if you can make an appointment to discuss their research in detail.
- Include a salutation, greeting, and an email signature.
Meeting with Potential Faculty Mentors
- BEFORE YOUR MEETING
Before interviewing for a research position, make sure that you are familiar with the faculty member's research interests and have prepared a list of questions to ask your potential mentor. Consider these topics:
- The faculty member's past and future projects.
- Expectations for students, skills that you may need to develop, and how you can prepare to work on their project.
- DURING YOUR MEETING
Business casual attire is recommended. Be prepared and professional, but remember that there is no need to stress. Faculty want to get to know you and may ask you about the following topics:
- Why are you interested in their research?
- What are your goals and how will conducting research help you achieve them?
- What do you hope to learn?
- RESEARCH FOR CREDIT
There is a zero-credit hour option available at no cost to you that does not contribute to excess hours. You can enroll in zero-credit as long as you are enrolled in other coursework. For some departments, this course may also serve as academic credit towards the completion of your major. Contact your mentor's department for more information.