These steps are intended as a preliminary source of information and guidance towards research. It is not a substitute for meeting and talking with faculty to discuss what interests and engages you the most. The roadmap to research steps include:
Step one - Identify Your Approach
You have the opportunity to work in a research setting and gain valuable experience. Decide what types of research are best for you.
You can apply for an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program scholarship to receive funding for your research project.
International UROP Scholarship
You can apply for an International Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program scholarship to receive funding for a research project while studying abroad in a U of M Learning Abroad Program.
Course Credit/Directed Research
It is possible to earn course credit while researching on-campus. For students with more advanced coursework, Directed Research may be the best route.
Many students start by volunteering on a research team, in a lab, or assisting with a creative project.
Working hourly on a faculty member's project can be a great way to get initial exposure, training and experience. Opportunities are posted on the UMN Office of Human Resources site. Search for student jobs including the designation of UGRA I and II.
Internships can help students gain experience in a particular field. Internships are often off-campus, and can be research-based or focus on career skills beyond research.
Step two - Identify Interests
Consider the following when figuring out the type of research that you want to do:
- Which topics in your courses have you liked the most?
- Which courses have you liked the most?
- What are your long-term career goals?
- What have other students done?
- Check out the Undergraduate Research Symposium or the Summer Research Symposium.
- What other types of experiences have other students had?
Step three - Identify a Faculty Mentor
All research opportunities start with identifying a faculty mentor. Be thoughtful about what types of research you are interested in, and therefore which faculty members you decide to contact. You do not have to work with a faculty member in your major or even in your college.
Choosing potential faculty mentors
- Choose between 5-10 potential faculty members that you might like to work with. You can start with the departmental websites and their lists of faculty members.
- Another great place to look is the Experts@UMN website. Search for concepts/keywords that you are interested in studying to find faculty at the University of Minnesota working on that topic.
- Have several faculty members in mind because not every faculty member will be able to take a new student.
- Contact the UROP Office for help in identifying potential faculty members.
Step four - Make Contact
It is beneficial to do your homework and make a good first impression. Once you choose the faculty members you want to contact, read a couple of their most recent publications. You can find this information under their faculty profile at Experts@UMN or on their pages on departmental web sites. You may not understand everything in a research paper, but you will understand some of it. It will help you determine that you want to work with a particular faculty member or it may eliminate a particular choice. After you read some papers, email the faculty member and ask to set up an appointment to discuss their research and potential undergraduate research opportunities with them.
A successful meeting
Once you have a meeting set up with a faculty member, consider the following at the meeting:
- Remind them that you read their papers and that you chose them because you are interested in their research.
- Communicate your availability and time commitment (hours per week and semesters).
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Be serious but enthusiastic.
Step five - Success
Success in research is not always easy. Sometimes you can work hard and nothing turns out the way you want. Other times, you can make a mistake and it turns out to be a gold mine. Go into your research experience with an open mind and a willingness to learn and you will do great!