Before undertaking an undergraduate research project, there are a few steps you should take.Define your interests
Is there something you feel passionate enough about to explore?
What are your favorite courses?
Have you had a class assignment or paper that you can expand upon?
What previous experience or skills do you have that can be useful in research?
Explore undergraduate research opportunities
Research and creative scholarship happens in every department at VCU, from the School of the Arts to the Department of History to the School of Medicine. Most departmental websites feature descriptions of faculty research interests and undergraduate research opportunities. Check out the VCU website. You can start by viewing the Links and resources.
Plan a talk with your advisor
Make an appointment for a conference with your academic advisor or with another faculty member you might know in your major to discuss your research interests.
Pause for a moment before contacting faculty
Try to find a department contact person for undergraduate research opportunities and issues. See the link on “finding research opportunities”
Approach faculty with respect and be mindful of their time. Visit during office hours or schedule an appointment.
Read faculty profiles on departmental website pages to learn about their research and publications. Make sure that you can talk about your research interests, and ask questions about their research.
If your initial communication is by email, use a respectful tone. Address the faculty member as Dr. or Professor. In addition, don’t write – HEY Dr. XX.
Include information about yourself and your research interests (see “be prepared” below).
Don’t send out mass emails with a general statement, such as “I’m looking for a research project. Do you have one?”
Think about your availability to do research. Be realistic about the amount of time you have to devote to a research experience. The number of hours may vary from situation to situation, but you should expect to spend at least 10 hours/week.
Faculty members are looking for students who are not just high achievers and interested in their research, but who are also reliable.
Be persistent (but not a nuisance)
Don’t get discouraged if you can’t find a research opportunity right away. If a faculty member doesn’t have a position for you, he or she may be able to recommend another faculty member.
The objective is to find a good fit between your interests and abilities and those of a faculty member.
You may want to prepare yourself with one or more courses to make ready for a productive research experience. Ask faculty for advice on how to prepare yourself to be of use in their type of work.
Have you read recent academic publications in your area of interest? Talk to your advisor or mentor about professional publications to become familiar with.
Do you need specialized safety or other training to do research in your area of interest? Talk to your advisor or faculty mentor about what it takes to be certified safe.
The awardees for the VCU UROP Summer Fellowship in 2011 were presented during the Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity, part of VCU Research Week 2011. From far left: Jared Boyd, Yeimarie Lopez, Jason Phillips, Aruna Anbazhagan, Ilijana Soldan, Jonathan Fletcher, Herb Hill (UROP Coordinator), Brendan Elliot, and Tim Fiore. Not pictured: Mary Gallagher, Victoria Hribar, Theresa Painter, Laura Peters, Mary Reck, Royena Tanaz, Tobias Wilbur.