Finding a Faculty Research Mentor

Finding a suitable research experience takes some work on your part.

Here are the usual steps:

  1. Browse through descriptions of each faculty member's research to identify several potential mentors who are doing research that matches your own intellectual interests and career goals. For students interested in the chemical and life sciences, here are some places to start:
  2. Ask around
    • Your current and past professors may be accepting students or know of any colleagues who are
    • Your academic advisor might know of mentors who would be a good match for your interests
  3. Contact potential mentors (email is usually best, but stopping by their labs or offices is also okay) to determine whether they are interested in having you join their research program. In your first contact with potential faculty mentors, you should tell them:
    • Your year (e.g., sophomore)
    • Your GPA
    • Any relevant research or laboratory experience you already have
    • Your general research interests or goals
  4. Plan to meet with each potential faculty mentor in person, tour their lab and speak to other students in the lab (both graduate and undergraduate) before making a final decision

Check out the advice on selecting a mentor on WebGuru (the Guide to Research for Undergraduates)

After you have decided upon which research opportunity is best for you, it’s a good idea make an explicit agreement with your mentor that specifies

  • How much time you will spend in the lab
  • The days and hours you will work
  • Your responsibilities

If you wish to receive academic credit for your work, you should then contact the Coordinating Advisor or Undergraduate Program Director in the department to which your faculty mentor belongs. Each faculty member has a specific course and section number for undergraduate research, and each department has its own procedures for registering for credit.