Students often cite locating a project as a barrier to getting involved in conducting research. Following are strategies to help connect a student’s interests with a possible project and faculty mentor:
Find a research project
- Remember that you do not need to have prior research experience to get involved – everyone starts somewhere.
- Think about what type of research you are interested in.
- Explore what research is currently being done in your field of study.
- Consider multidisciplinary projects that may fit your interests.
- Explore Vertically Integrated Projects, which offer multi-semester, interdisciplinary projects for students at all levels.
- Apply for research positions on campus.
Identify possible faculty mentors willing to work with you
- Talk to professors from whom you have taken a class about the types of research they are working on.
- Ask your academic advisor about research opportunities.
- Browse faculty lists on departmental websites to learn about various areas of research.
- Talk to fellow students about research they have completed and mentors they have worked with.
Contact potential faculty mentors
- An email to a potential mentor introducing yourself and clearly stating the purpose for contacting them is the most efficient way to start the process and should include:
- Name and major
- Purpose for contacting them, including a request to meet with them in person
- Research areas of interest
- Why you are interested in working with them specifically
- Your contact information
- Include a curriculum vitae (CV) as an email attachment. A CV is similar to a resume but is specific to your academic career and could include:
- Previous research experience, if any
- Relevant coursework including techniques/concepts mastered
- Work and leadership experience that demonstrates critical thinking, time management, organizational, and communication skills
- Follow-up if you don’t hear back in a few days – be persistent, not pesky.
Before you meet with a potential faculty mentor
- Think about what you want
- Is this something you want to do for one semester, is it something you would be interested in for one or two years?
- How much time can you commit to a research project each week?
- Familiarize yourself with a potential faculty mentor’s scholarly interests, recent publications, etc.
- Be sure you are willing to make the commitment to the research project.
Meeting with a potential faculty mentor
- Be prepared! Getting involved in research is not like signing up for a class. All email correspondence and discussions with potential faculty mentors should be considered professional interactions similar to a job interview.
- Be able to explain why you find this project interesting.
- Identify the skills you can bring to the research experience and sell yourself.
- There are a variety of reasons why a faculty mentor may not be able to include you in a research project. Don’t take it personally and don’t give up. That faculty mentor may have a project open up at a later date or may be able to recommend you to someone else who is doing similar or related research. Much of research is about perseverance and determination.
For more tips and tricks on presenting your research, click here! Watch the first four videos on the page.