How Do I Get Started?

So you have realized that undergraduate research is definitely for you. Great!
Here are a few ways you can get started on your undergraduate research journey.

emily crisp in a scuba suit climbing into a boat after looking at clownfish underwater
Emily Crisp, a 2014-2015 undergraduate research fellow, studying
the effects of visual and chemical signaling of clownfish.

Before you delve into undergraduate research, you should figure out what you are interested in. Have you taken a class that sparked your curiosity? Is there a professor whose research sounds fascinating to you? Special topics courses or upper-division seminars can provide insight into an area of research, and may help you connect with possible research mentors.

Undergraduate research topics can be in any discipline - our undergraduate research fellows have had projects ranging from a study of sound symbolism in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings to finding new plant-based cures for tuberculosis. So don't be afraid to branch out and find a topic you are passionate about!

Most of the research conducted at Auburn begins with a student approaching a faculty member, department chair, advisor, or another student who has been involved in undergraduate research. If there are courses that capture your interest, speak to those faculty members about their ongoing research and whether they are interested in working with undergraduate students.

You can also talk to the chair of your department (or a department you might be interested in joining) to find out which faculty members welcome undergraduates in their research group, or which faculty have guided undergraduates in a research project.

You may also speak to graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) about their research projects. They can advise you on which faculty members are best suited for your interests.

Finally, you can reach out to your academic advisor for help with finding a mentor.

If you'd rather hear from your peers first about their experiences with research, visit the Peer Ambassador page. These students are passionate about undergraduate research and have agreed to serve as resources for anyone considering research. Find someone in your college or department and send them an email!

There are plenty of research opportunities outside of Auburn University available to undergraduates as early as freshman year. We keep a list of external research fellowships, or you can search for a project yourself. Two of the main sites that list research experiences for undergraduates (REUs) are the National Science Foundation and Oak Ridge Associated Universities. Check them out for spring, fall, and summer research postings.

Like we said earlier, you can take special topics courses or seminars to provide insight on a possible research project. Another option is to take a research course - many majors have dedicated research courses for undergraduates, which can help you hone your skills and connect with future research mentors.

Check out the list of classes here.

Take initiative! One of the reasons undergraduate research can set you apart from your peers is because it shows determination and a commitment to excellence, so do not be afraid to approach a professor or advisor to ask about working with them on their research or asking them to connect you with a professor that shares your interests. The Office of Undergraduate Research is here as an asset as well - contact us if you have any questions or problems getting involved with research.

Didn't find your answer? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions!

Last Updated: August 13, 2015