Benefits of Undergraduate Research

"Is research only for science students? Is research only for students who want to go to graduate school? Isn't my coursework enough?"

No, no, and maybe not.

Research is the systematic gathering of information to help you answer a question or solve a problem. Research is going on right now all over the university and all over the world in libraries and laboratories, in rainforests and hospitals, and in courtrooms and archeological sites.

Undergraduate research can help you:

  • improve your communication skills
  • find opportunities to present and publish your ideas
  • test your determination and perseverance
  • develop creativity, problem-solving, and intellectual independence

Student Perspective

Arts & Sciences junior Ryan Thier shares his research experience as a student studying political science.

Student-Run Master Minds Podcast Interviews WashU Alum and Nobel Laureate in Chemistry

Before earning a 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemisty, W. H. Moerner was a WashU undergraduate researcher

Career & Academic Benefits

Independent research with the goal of creating a publically accessible product is beneficial for all undergraduates, regardless of discipline or future career plans.

Career Benefits

Survey findings of employers demonstrate that skills and aptitudes gained through research are highly valued in the workplace. The survey illustrates that: 

  • Employers in the survey specifically endorse curriculum that has students “conduct research and use evidence-based analysis.”
  • Independent research fosters innovation and critical thinking (favored by over 90% of employers).
  • When students direct their research toward a capstone project that will be presented to the public, they develop their written and oral communication skills, which 80% of employers prefer more emphasis on in undergraduate recruits.
  • 79% of employers want undergraduates to “complete a project prior to graduation that demonstrates their acquired knowledge and skills.”

[From “It Takes More than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success,” Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2013]

Academic Benefits 

Many departments require capstone projects during the senior year to synthesize the knowledge gained in your major field and present it to the public. For some students, this takes the form of a senior thesis, a formal academic article based on disciplinary conventions. You can use your research to create a capstone that can take many forms – a website, a community service project, an exhibition, etc. Talk with your adviser about opportunities to pursue these types of projects within your major requirements.

Hear a panel of WashU graduate students and alums discuss their journey to and through graduate school.

Topics included: How to decide whether to pursue to a PhD; How to find, evaluate, and select programs; The role of an advisor in the application process and throughout graduate school; How to manage the application process and whether to go right away or take time off.

Leveraging Undergraduate Research for Graduate School