Insights into Undergraduate Research

Insights into Undergraduate Research


As a research institution, the University of Texas at Austin has more than 200 research units and centers. Fortunately, the College of Natural Sciences offers programs such as the Freshman Research Initiative (FRI) and Accelerated Research Initiative (ARI) to introduce undergraduate students to cutting edge research. However, students who are not part of these programs or those who would like to transition into a graduate level research lab often have many questions regarding the process of joining a lab and the life of an undergraduate in a research lab. This guide will answer some of those questions and will provide tips for undergraduate research.

How do I join a lab?

  1. Visit the department website and look through the different research interests.

  2. Narrow down the list to 2-3 professors.

  3. Visit the professor’s research lab website to learn more about their research. Also, look through a few of their papers to have a general understanding of their projects .

  4. Send them an email asking if you could set up a meeting to further discuss their research and potential opportunities for you to work in their lab (only email the professors one by one and wait for their response).

  5. Some professors may say that they cannot take an undergraduate at the moment. Some will call you in for an interview.

What is like working in a lab?

  • You will be assigned to a graduate student or post-doc and will help them with their projects.

  • After a certain amount of time, you may be able to work on an independent project.

  • Be ready to commit 10-15 hours a week to the research (depending on the lab).

Other tips

  • Always attend group meetings; you get to learn a lot about what other members of the group are working on.

  • Get to know the graduate students in the lab. They can offer great advice regarding graduate school, professional school, or jobs.

  • Ask questions, be curious. Make you really understand the concepts behind the research

  • Assure sure you are generally interested in the topic and research. Don’t do it for the resume because it is a serious commitment and will definitely take a substantial amount of time out of your school day

  • Staying to work in lab over the summer is highly recommended as you can really immerse yourself into the research without classwork

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