Routes to Undergraduate Research: A Central Inventory
The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) aspires to provide centralized resources, infrastructure, and guidance to help all undergraduate students access high-quality, faculty-mentored research opportunities that advance their academic, personal, and professional goals. These OUR resources will complement and scaffold the essential work of faculty and staff in each academic department and program, who enroll undergraduate students in credit-bearing research opportunities (e.g., independent studies), train them in the disciplinary norms and practices of their field, and develop undergraduate researchers into independent scholars equipped to conduct original inquiry (e.g., via honors theses and capstone projects). The OUR has partnered with academic departments and programs to understand the different contacts, policies, and opportunities regarding undergraduate research in their units, which the OUR is hosting in this central inventory.
Ready to learn how to get engaged? Familiarize yourself with the possible routes into undergraduate research in your area of interest by locating your department or program below.
Departmental and Program Survey Prompts
- Departmental Contact: Who should students contact if they have questions about getting started in undergraduate research in your department/program?
- Timeline for Getting Started: When do undergraduate students typically get engaged with research or inquiry in your department/program?
- How to Prepare: What prior experiences or attributes (coursework, skills, etc.) do students need to get involved with research or inquiry in your department/program?
- Departmental On-Ramps: What types of research opportunities are available to undergraduates in your department/program, particularly for students who have no prior experience but are interested in undergraduate research?
- Other Info: Please share any additional information you would like to provide to students interested in conducting undergraduate research in your department/program (e.g., website links).
Departments and program representatives may submit new or revised materials via this webform. Please allow one week after submission for updates to be made.
- Departmental Contact: Any faculty member can help initiate student research or creative work.
- Timeline for Getting Started: Often in relation to senior capstones, which students begin to work on at the end of the junior spring semester.
- How to Prepare: It all depends on what the student is interested in doing. Many students bring years of previous music study to music-related research or creative practice. Others are new to music. The department supports both paths.
- Departmental On-Ramps: Entry level courses in music are the best way to get started. This include academic courses but also beginner instruction making music as well.
- Departmental Contact: Meghan Kirkwood, Chair of Visual Arts
- Timeline for Getting Started: Undergraduate research has typically started with a project in a class and continued over the summer months.
- How to Prepare: Coursework in the studio art that the student will be conducting the research in is important prior experience.
- Departmental On-Ramps: We tend to work most closely with students who propose their own projects and are looking for faculty mentors. Otherwise, research opportunities tend to arise from a connection with a faculty member.
- Departmental Contact: Students in the BME major should contact their BME advisor to discuss getting started in undergraduate research.
- Timeline for Getting Started: Undergraduate students typically can engage with research in the BME department in their sophomore year or later, or during the summer preceding the sophomore year.
- How to Prepare: Skills needed will vary, but a solid background in calculus, physics, chemistry, biology, and coding will generally prepare students for research work in BME laboratories. Experience with statistics and wet lab skills can be helpful as well. When preparing a resume, it's helpful to list coursework that might be relevant to a research experience.
- Departmental On-Ramps: Many Washington University in St. Louis faculty have openings for BME students to pursue independent research for course credit or for an hourly wage during the academic year. Additional information for learning more about faculty-led research is available at https://bme.wustl.edu/academics/undergraduate-programs/independent-study.html.
Computer Science & Engineering
- Departmental Contact: Students should contact their faculty advisor.
- Timeline for Getting Started: Most students become involved in some form of research activities in their junior year, though quite a few have an early start in their sophomore year. The timing is very much a function of their level of preparation and becoming acquainted (e.g., by taking their course) with faculty working in areas they are interested in.
- How to Prepare: Taking a course in area overlapping with the research topic the student is interested in is typically the best option to both get ready and establish initial contacts with a faculty who may be willing to supervise the student's research involvement.
- Departmental On-Ramps: There is no one size fits all as students come with very different backgrounds when it comes to core CS skills. Typically, the equivalent of a minor in CS is required with the addition of one course (technical elective) in an area related to the research the student is interested in.
- Other Information: We also have a summer research program (https://sites.wustl.edu/csereu/) that many WashU students apply to. During the academic year, research involvement is typically either in the form of an Independent Study or a paid position to work in a lab.
Electrical & Systems Engineering
- Departmental Contact: Jason Trobaugh, Professor of the Practice & Director of Undergraduate Studies
- Timeline for Getting Started: We have a scaffolded set of undergraduate research courses in ESE, to allow students to get involved in research as early as their first year.
- How to Prepare: We recommend that they've taken ESE 105 Introduction to Electrical and Systems Engineering. Otherwise, necessary experience will depend on the particular faculty member and project.
- Departmental On-Ramps: We have four courses in undergraduate research:
- ESE 2001 Research Experience in ESE, a 1-unit course designed to expose you to ESE research.
- ESE 2971 Introduction to Research in ESE, 2 units of introductory mentored research.
- ESE 497 Undergraduate Research, 1-3 units of work on an independent research project, with presentation at an ESE research symposium.
- ESE 4971 Honors Thesis Research - 4 units, extensive independent research project. Requires nomination from at least two ESE faculty.
- Other Info: More information at https://ese.wustl.edu/academics/undergraduate-programs/undergraduate-research.html.
Energy, Electrical & Chemical Engineering
- Departmental Contact: Janie Brennan, Senior Lecturer & Director of Undergraduate Studies
- Timeline for Getting Started: As early as their first year at WashU, including the summer! Most students start doing research for course credit in sophomore/junior/senior years, but students can engage with research whenever they have the time and interest.
- How to Prepare: It depends on the lab and research they are engaging with. In some labs, simply being in a technical major will suffice. In others, the PIs may want students to have more advanced chemical and/or materials engineering knowledge or computing experience.
- Departmental On-Ramps: It's as easy as emailing a faculty member whose research you're interested in! We don't have any formal on-ramp programs, but all students can reach out at any time to begin their research endeavors. Feel free to contact Dr. Janie Brennan for tips/assistance on how to reach out.
- Other Info: Research can be done for hourly pay or for course credit (Independent Study, EECE 100, 200, 300, or 400). For course credit, students may register for anywhere from 1-6 credit hours; there is an expectation of 3-4 hours of research per week per credit hour. To begin an independent study, contact a faculty member whose research is of interest. With their help, fill out the form linked below and submit it before the add/drop deadline in a given semester.
Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science
- Departmental Contact: Jeff Krampf, Lecturer
- Timeline for Getting Started: Undergraduates get engaged at a variety of stages, depending on their background and interests. Most typically in their 2nd or 3rd years, so that they have the benefit of university courses in their field, but also time to learn and progress in their research.
- How to Prepare: The type of prior experience and coursework also varies widely depending on projects. The most important attributes for a student are (1) curiosity, (2) willingness to assume responsibility (to learn background material, develop questions, perform tasks, and document results).
- Departmental On-Ramps: We encourage students to ask faculty if they may attend research group meetings to learn about the activities in the lab. We also encourage students to propose independent study projects.
Departments and programs included in this category are tagged for Humanities only in the Arts & Sciences IQ Integrations.
Art History and Archaeology
- Departmental Contact: Kristina Kleutghen, David W. Mesker Associate Professor & Director of Undergraduate Studies
- Timeline for Getting Started: Sophomore or junior year
- How to Prepare: Coursework in the department; strong writing and critical thinking skills demonstrated through class writing assignments; ability to work independently and reliably on a set schedule; ability to work with both print and digital resources; bibliographic citation software experience; foreign language ability (even basic) is sometimes necessary but always appreciated.
- Departmental On-Ramps: Greenberg Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship; Senior Honors Thesis; Faculty research assistants; supporting faculty projects in the Humanities Digital Workshop and Center for Race, Ethnicity and Equity.
- Other Info:
- Honors guidelines: https://arthistory.artsci.wustl.edu/undergraduate-honors-guidelines
- Greenberg Fellowship: https://www.kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu/greenberg
- Curatorial Research Internship (Kemper Museum/CRE2): https://www.kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu/node/14608
Center for the Humanities
- Center Contact: Meredith Kelling, Assistant Director of Student Research and Engagement
- Timeline for Getting Started: We are a center rather than an academic department, but we do offer the Merle Kling Honors Undergraduate Fellowship. Potential Kling Fellows are Arts and Sciences undergraduates who seek opportunities to engage in serious independent research in the humanities and/or the humanistic social sciences, with an interest in pursuing further graduate work in one of these areas. They apply midway through the spring semester of their sophomore year and are selected shortly after Spring Break. Over the course of two academic years, each Kling Fellow will write up his or her research findings in either a scholarly article or a long-form piece of creative nonfiction: both will be published in the annual Kling journal, Slideshow. Fellows are also encouraged to use their Kling research to get a head start on honors work in their major departments. More broadly, students with an interest in humanities research at any stage are encouraged to reach out to Dr. Kelling to think through their ideas and how best to develop their projects.
How to Prepare: Kling fellows are required to be second-year students in good academic standing.
Center On-Ramps: Currently, we do not formally offer any opportunities outside of the Kling fellowship, but we're hoping to expand workshopping opportunities to a wider body of undergraduate humanists -- stay tuned! In the meantime, I cannot underscore enough how willing I am to help out any undergraduate trying to find a research opportunity on campus. : )
- Departmental Contact: Luis Alejandro Salas, Associate Professor & Director of Undergraduate Studies
- Timeline for Getting Started: Faculty can take on research assistants at any time. It is recommended to begin at the end of the semester. Students wishing to do independent research projects should make arrangements at the beginning of a semester. Students wishing to write an honors thesis should make arrangements in April of their junior year.
- How to Prepare: In general, no prior experience or attributes are required. Research projects can be adjusted to suit a student’s level of preparation.
- Departmental On-Ramps: Several faculty have research projects (most notably digital projects) that employ paid student interns. Students at any level of preparation are welcome to apply to be part of such projects. Students with more experience may wish to participate in independent research projects for credit.
- Other Info: https://classics.wustl.edu/undergraduate-research
East Asian Languages and Cultures
- Departmental Contact: Krystél Mowery, Administrative Coordinator
- Timeline for Getting Started:
- Upper-Level Engagement: Students often engage with research or inquiry through assignments or projects in upper-level (300 & 400-level) literature and culture courses.
- Capstone Activities for EALC Majors: EALC majors and second majors typically delve deeper into research during their capstone activities, presenting their findings at the EALC department's own capstone symposium.
- How to Prepare:
- Relevant Coursework: Engagement typically begins with completing relevant coursework within the department and forming relationships with faculty and advisors.
- Identification of Interest Areas: Students are encouraged to identify specific topics or areas of interest for further research, either embedded within their coursework or as part of a senior thesis project.
- Departmental On-Ramps:
- Integrated Research in Coursework: All students in EALC courses engage in research and writing as an essential component of their academic journey.
- Faculty Collaboration: Interested students can work closely with faculty members (and advisors for majors), receiving personalized guidance and mentorship.
- Spector-Yang Summer Research Grants: EALC offers summer grants specifically tailored for undergraduate students. These grants can facilitate intensive research projects in East Asia, providing hands-on experience and deeper insights into the region’s diverse cultures and societies.
Germanic Languages and Literatures
- Departmental Contact: André Fischer, Assistant Professor & Director of Undergraduate Studies
- Timeline for Getting Started: Typically, Junior and Senior year for Majors wanting to earn Honors in German. Both Majors and Minors can work on developing an internship project (German 299) with departmental approval.
- How to Prepare: The Senior Thesis project is only for German Majors, so they will have had to have completed their language sequence and several 400-level courses. The internship in German is a project that is approved by the department with the supervision of a faculty member.
- Departmental On-Ramps:
- German 299—Internship for Liberal Arts Students: This is a course for students participating in a pre-approved internship program. Students will work together with a faculty adviser to determine the exact nature and scope of the work to be undertaken to receive German credit.
- German 497—Independent Work for Senior Honors: Research for an Honors thesis, on a topic chosen in conjunction with the advisor. Emphasis on independent study and writing. Open to students with previous course work in German at the 400 level, an overall 3.0 grade point average, and at least a B+ average in advanced work in German. Prerequisites: senior standing and permission of the undergraduate advisor.
- German 498—Independent Work for Senior Honors: Continuation of German 497. Completion of thesis. Quality of the thesis determines whether the student receives credit only or Honors in German. Prerequisite: German 497.
- Other Info:
Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities (IPH)
- Departmental Contacts: Joe Loewenstein, Professor of English, Director & Director of Undergraduate Studies for IPH, Director of Undergraduate Studies for Comparative Literature
- Timeline for Getting Started: Those who begin their research experiences, as we recommend, with work as faculty RAs can start in the second semester of their first year, and a few do so. Some begin in the summer after their first years: for those working on projects sited in the Humanities Digital Workshop (HDW), summer work has the added benefit of involving collaboration. For those who wish to pursue independent research, especially those in Compartive Literature, independent research usually begins in the first semester of junior year. We offer a course in research methods in that semester, in which students pursue mentored independent research projects.
- How to Prepare: Highly project dependent. It is best to consult the major advisor in IPH or Comparative Literature.
- Departmental On-Ramps: See https://iph.wustl.edu/research-apprenticeships#anchor-group-9538
Jewish, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Studies (JIMES)
- Departmental Contact: Pamela Barmash, Professor & Director of Undergraduate Studies
- Timeline for Getting Started: They start by talking with the professor with whom they want to work prior to the semester they want to start.(If students want to do research in spring 2024, they would start by having a discussion with a professor in fall 2023).
- How to Prepare: Generally, prior coursework with the supervising professor and language study.
- Departmental On-Ramps: Enrolling in courses that require research papers.
Roman Languages and Literatures
- Departmental Contacts:
- Timeline for Getting Started: Undergraduates typically propose an honors thesis topic in the Spring of their third year, then write and defend the thesis during their fourth year.
- How to Prepare: Students should successfully complete upper-level coursework before undertaking an honors thesis.
- Departmental On-Ramps: RLL offers the opportunity to complete an honors thesis, and research assistantships with some professors are also available. Contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the language of interest to learn more.
Humanistic Social Sciences
Departments and programs included in this category are tagged for both Humanities and Social & Behavioral Sciences in the Arts & Sciences IQ Integrations.
African and African American Studies
- Departmental Contact: Raven Maragh-LLoyd, Assistant Professor & Director of Undergraduate Studies; Jonathan Fenderson, Associate Professor & Faculty Director of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship; Zach Manditch-Prottas, Lecturer & departmental Undergrad Research Committee
- Timeline for Getting Started: Students typically get engaged with research or inquiry in the Spring of their sophomore/Fall of their junior year.
- How to Prepare: Prior experience or attributes necessary for research involvement typically includes having taken our prerequisite, Foundations, Methods, and Intro to Africana Studies courses. At the time of research inquiry, students have also fulfilled requirements for 300 and 400 level courses, which also focus on research methods and intensive readings. relationship with professor interested in working with.
- Departmental On-Ramps: Students who major or minor in African and African-American Studies design a course of independent study that focuses on either a particular area of interest (e.g., health and wellness; arts and culture; global studies) or a more comprehensive examination of black culture and life. Students also have opportunities to collaborate in faculty research and undertake internships with St. Louis community organizations. Summer programs, class trips, and study abroad in other parts of the U.S. and global African Diaspora, all serve as additional opportunities available to undergraduates with no prior experience. Students in the past have pursued research through Mellon Mays and Kling.
- Other Info:
American Culture Studies
- Program Contact: Karen Skinner, Academic Coordinator
- Timeline for Getting Started: They do research in their sophomore and junior years, but they get engaged with a Capstone or Latin Honors Thesis topic second semester Junior year (they turn in a research proposal in April of their Junior year). They can get engaged as early as their first year if they'd like; we have built learning how to research and write scholarly projects into the major requirements.
- How to Prepare: Critical reading and writing skills, of course, but we also require all majors to take our L98 375A: Methods and Visions course (also writing intensive) so they learn about different methodologies we use in American Studies, and how to utilize those methodologies in their own projects. We also require students take a course that is designated a "fieldwork" course that gives them hands-on, in the field experience with a particular methodology(ies).
- Departmental On-Ramps: Students have the opportunity to write research papers in many of our 300-level courses, and they have the option of a one-semester Capstone research project (~30 pages) or a two-semester Latin Honors Thesis (~60 pages) and they must take our Capstone Workshop course we've designed to walk them through the research and writing process. We have designed the major to give the students the research and writing skills (through 375A, Fieldwork courses, and the Capstone courses) so they can create their own research projects and present them in our Spring Senior Colloquium.
- Other Info: https://amcs.wustl.edu/capstone
- Departmental Contact: Bret Gustafson, Professor
- Timeline for Getting Started: Many students get involved with research during coursework with a professor, which may start as early as the sophomore year. Students planning to write a senior thesis are on a timeline that starts in the spring of their junior year (details here: https://anthropology.wustl.edu/senior-honors-thesis). Other students may do research projects as part of their study abroad experiences, typically spring of junior year.
- How to Prepare: For research with individual professors, the gateway can be any number of courses.
- For ethnographic research, students may take an ethnographic methods class or get guidance from an advisor. There is no formal process.
- Departmental On-Ramps: Research in our bio anthropology and archaeology labs (doing experiments, analyzing specimens, working with GIS), as well as research assistance for qualitative or ethnographic projects (which may include analyzing interviews, doing bibliographic research, transcribing interviews, tabulating surveys, etc). In the past, research opportunities in anthropology department labs have included projects in archaeology, paleoethnobotany, geoarchaeology, zooarchaeology, genetic studies, human biomechanics, human osteology, human ecology, and primate studies. Every spring, undergraduate researchers have the opportunity to present at the annual anthropology honors and undergraduate research poster session.
- Other Info: Details here: https://anthropology.wustl.edu/undergraduate#dark-callout
- Departmental Contact: Andy Butler, Chair, Associate Professor, & Honors Thesis Coordinator
- Timeline for Getting Started: If students plan to study abroad Spring semester of junior year, students should meet with the Honors Thesis coordinator in early Fall of junior year as their honors thesis proposal is due before going abroad. For those not going abroad Spring semester of junior year, they will want to meet the Honors Thesis coordinator prior to registering for Wash U courses for the Spring semester as it could be that the student is recommended to take a particular course in Spring of junior year in preparation for researching and writing an honor thesis.
- Students interested in research generally may inquire with any faculty member during the school year to determine if the faculty member is interested in having undergraduate collaborators and/or research assistants. Students may also ask their education advisor, the director of undergraduate education, the director of teacher education, and/or the honors thesis coordinator about possibilities.
- How to Prepare: For an honors thesis, students should have taken at least one course related to research methods and methodology and/or already completed prior research that exemplifies their ability to carry out independent research.
- For more general inquiries, students will need to discuss specific experiences or attributes with the professor with whom they may collaborate with or assist.
- Departmental On-Ramps: Individual professors may have opportunities for undergraduates. Talking with either their education, advisor, the director of undergraduate educational studies, the director of teacher education, and/or the honors thesis coordinator would probably be the best starting point.
- Departmental Contact: Seth Graebner, Associate Professor & Director of Undergraduate Studies
- Timeline for Getting Started: They may do so in any year, but if they intend to write a thesis, they need to start thinking about it by the second half of junior year.
- How to Prepare: The best preparation is to learn something about the work of a variety of faculty who offer classes counted for the GS major. These are the people most likely to need research assistants, and also to be willing to help students develop research projects reflecting shared interests.
A significant number of GS faculty projects involve languages other than English, but the level of language needed is not always very high, so students should not be afraid to approach faculty working in other languages solely because they believe their own level is insufficient.
- Departmental On-Ramps: We regularly offer GS 4007, "Research Methods Proseminar and Assistantship," which matches students with faculty looking for research assistants. Senior thesis writers take GS 485, "Preparation for Global Studies Honors Thesis" in the first semester of their senior year. For other opportunities, consult the resources mentioned below.
- Other Info:
- Our web page on research in GS: https://globalstudies.wustl.edu/undergraduate-research
- FAQ on the honors thesis: https://globalstudies.wustl.edu/honors-thesis
Latin American Studies
- Program Contact: Ignacio Sanchez Prado, Director of Undergraduate Studies
- Timeline for Getting Started: Junior year
- How to Prepare: This varies significantly per student, and thusly a conversation with the DUS is desirable.
- Program On-Ramps: Our only research structure is the honors thesis, or an independent study under the supervision of a faculty member on topics chosen by the students.
Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
- Departmental Contact: Cynthia Barounis, Senior Lecturer & Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies
- Timeline for Getting Started: Students usually begin to generate potential lines of inquiry during their second and third year in the program; many of these ideas eventually develop into honors theses.
- How to Prepare: Our methods course, WGSS 417: Feminist and Queer Research Methodologies, provides a great opportunity for students to cultivate research skills that they can apply to their own interdisciplinary research in the field. The course examines how gender theory and feminist politics shape the kinds of research questions researchers ask, the types of materials researchers use, and the ways researchers define their relationships with data, evidence, and other information. The course culminates in each student turning in a detailed research proposal which often serves as the basis for an honors project.
- Departmental On-Ramps: Beyond our methods course, the WGSS Department connects students with internships related to gender and sexuality which can be used for university credit. The department also offers several community engaged learning courses and study abroad opportunities that count as credit toward the major. Courses and opportunities like these help students to bridge the gap between theory and practice by giving students on-the-ground experience with how social justice organizations work and orienting them to the hands-on applications of their studies. This helps students to develop research questions that feel personally and politically meaningful.
- Other Info:
- We offer an annual award to support undergraduate research in WGSS. The Andrea Biggs Undergraduate Research Award is open to all undergraduate students who are interested in conducting original research projects in the area of gender studies. The recipient of the Biggs award receives $4,000 in support of their project. Students can learn more about the Biggs award at this link.
- You can learn more about WGSS honors thesis research here: https://wgss.wustl.edu/honors-thesis
Social & Behavioral Sciences
Departments and programs included in this category are tagged for Social & Behavioral Sciences only in the Arts & Sciences IQ Integrations.
- Departmental Contact: Dorothy Petersen, Undergraduate Academic Coordinator
- Timeline for Getting Started: Generally after having taken Econ 413 and sometimes also Econ 4011 (if working on a micro-economics project) and or Econ 4021 (if working on a macro-economics project); but see below. Typically this will be during sophomore year.
- One standard path is to work with a faculty member who taught an elective that the student has taken.
- How to Prepare: The rule of thumb is Introduction to Econometrics (Econ 413) and programming experience; the programming experience does not have to be a formal course. Econ 4011 and/or Econ 4021 may also be expected. But the prerequisites will depend on the researcher and the project; some will need less, some will require more.
- More than anything else, researchers are looking for students who display initiative and who will carry tasks through to completion.
- Departmental On-Ramps: Varies with the faculty member, the project, and the capabilities of the student. Initial possibilities include data acquisition, data cleaning, bibliographic searches, and help running the experimental lab.
- Departmental Contact: Zach Bowersox, Lecturer
- Timeline for Getting Started: We are most frequently interested in students who can commit to semester-long projects. We would like to identify students (a) at the beginning of each semester who are available (b) who are interested in writing a senior thesis who can apply during their junior year (https://polisci.wustl.edu/senior-thesis-program) and (c) prior to the start of any summer. We welcome students at any stage of their degree.
- How to Prepare: Plan to share prior research experience, a resume and a statement of interests with Professor Bowersox to begin a conversation. We have professors with a myriad of projects that would benefit from multiple types of research interests and experiences.
- Departmental On-Ramps: From data collection to interviewing elected officials, we have projects that can match your interests. Come see us!
Psychological & Brain Sciences
- Departmental Contact: Shelley Kohlman, Undergraduate Coordinator
- Timeline for Getting Started: Many begin in their sophomore year (a few do in their first year, but some of us do not recommend this), and a large percentage of our majors begin in their junior year.
- How to Prepare: We have a Listing of Research Opportunities in Psychology that lists the research labs in which students can become involved. The Listings is available on the Undergraduate page of our departmental website. In that Listings, each lab states what, if any, requirements there are for participation.
- Departmental On-Ramps: Our Listing of Research Opportunities in Psychology lists the research labs in which students can become involved. The Listings is available on the Undergraduate page of our departmental website, and the students then can see the various types of opportunities available.
- Other Info: Here is the link to our Listing of Psychological Research Opportunities for undergraduates interested in research assistantship: https://wustl.app.box.com/s/hq3hv72yeyfm5orjtikafszgsjxgp4jt
- Departmental Contact: Kaitlyne Motl, Academic Coordinator
- Timeline for Getting Started: Students typically begin their research journey after a few courses in sociology. With the knowledge gained from their coursework (especially the "core" theory, research methods, and statistics classes), students are better prepared to support research projects or even begin their own. Students can get involved at any stage of the program; however, most students tend to engage in research opportunities during their junior and senior years. Faculty often approach students to join their projects as research assistants who have stood out from their peers in their courses, so making yourself known in class is a good way to form relationships with faculty.
- How to Prepare: At minimum, students should have a strong understanding of sociological principles and some understanding of broader sociological theories and qualitative and quantitative methods.
- Each project is different and requires different competencies. Some skills can be learned through the research process itself, but we encourage students who want to be more involved in faculty research to be able to:
- construct quality research questions,
- critically analyze existing scholarly works both within and external to the discipline,
- develop literature reviews,
- select the methodological approach that best addresses the question at hand,
- collect, code, and analyze data, and
- draw insightful conclusions from analyzed data
- Our coursework – particularly the “core” theory and methods requirements – provide a strong foundation for students to assist faculty and/or graduate students with their work, or to develop their own research projects!
- Each project is different and requires different competencies. Some skills can be learned through the research process itself, but we encourage students who want to be more involved in faculty research to be able to:
- Departmental On-Ramps: Students usually begin their research training through their coursework – developing familiarity with sociological concepts and works, as well as building skillsets that will prove useful in undergraduate research. Faculty and graduate students send out calls for research assistants when needed or are approached by faculty with whom they’ve become acquainted through their courses. Students may be selected to work one-on-one with the project leader - or as a part of a small “lab” team. Students should contact the faculty with whom they would like to work to express interest in supporting them. Some faculty require a formal application process; others are less formal in their selection process. Sometimes faculty may not have a current role available for a research assistant, but e-mailing them is a good way to express your interest, and faculty will often circle back to these expressions of interest when looking to hire assistants when they do need help. Students may undertake independent studies, capstone papers, and honors theses in sociology to pursue their own independent research as well. These are all excellent opportunities for students to get hands-on research experience under the guidance of a faculty mentor.
- Other Info:
- Sociology Honors Thesis Program: https://sociology.wustl.edu/sociology-honors-thesis-program
- Our Department's Focus Areas: https://sociology.wustl.edu/browse
Natural Sciences & Mathematics
- Departmental Contact: Tony Smith, Lecturer & Coordinator of Undergrad Research Experiences
- Timeline for Getting Started: Varies. Inquiries happen as early as the first semester of students' first year, with actual research engagement beginning as early as second semester of the first year, but more commonly begun in the second year of college or thereafter.
- How to Prepare: No prior experience required, rather a dedicated spirit and overall ability to manage time well and follow through on commitments and obligations. Most research teams are willing to teach/train undergrad research assistants the research skills to be successful. Eager students will need to find dedicated chunks of time in their schedule to commit to a research experience.
- Departmental On-Ramps: There are ample opportunities for student involvement in research. The department currently keeps a list of potential research mentors on its "Biology 200/500 Undergraduate Independent Research" website (https://sites.wustl.edu/bio200500independentresearch/bio-200-500-list-of-potential-mentors/). There is also a departmental homepage dedicated to undergrad research, with a plethora of helpful links to getting started. The department, along with various campus partners, such as the Office of Undergrad Research, also offers summer fellowships for research.
- Departmental Contact: Brandon Hutchison, Coordinator of Undergraduate Studies
- Timeline for Getting Started: Either second semester sophomore year, or first semester junior year are when students typically engage with research, but there are plenty of students that begin research earlier.
- How to Prepare: This is highly dependent upon the research group that they are working with. This (https://wustl.box.com/s/8prmaepqbeg2rfaq6ut54wlisupliqbh) is a chemistry document that outlines what each lab is looking for students to have completed to have a meaningful contribution to the lab.
- Departmental On-Ramps: We offer a course (chem 181) where students can learn about the different types of research going on throughout the chemistry department.
- Students can contact individual professors to become embedded within their groups, making meaningful contributions to the research effort of that group. Students can also contact Brandon Hutchison (see above) with questions about getting their research journey started.
- First- and second-year students can enroll in chem 290 First-Year and Sophomore Research in any/all of their first 4 semesters, which can be taken P/F for credit. Upper-level students can enroll in chem 490 Introduction to Undergraduate Research in any/all of their junior or senior semesters. Upper-level students can also enroll in chem 495 Advanced Undergraduate Research in one of their junior or senior semesters. Chem 495 does require prior research experience (chem 490 or equivalent). Students can take any of these classes outside of the chemistry department as long as the research has a chemistry component.
- Undergraduates are welcome to attend departmental research seminars (Calendar here: https://chemistry.wustl.edu/events) to learn more about research that is offered in chemistry.
- Students can do summer research in groups through programs/internship like HHMI or SURF.
- Other Info:
- Chemistry Undergraduate Research Link: https://chemistry.wustl.edu/undergraduate-research
- Chemistry Undergraduate Mentors: https://wustl.box.com/s/8prmaepqbeg2rfaq6ut54wlisupliqbh
- Research Seminars Calendar: https://chemistry.wustl.edu/events
- Chem Department Research Groups: https://chemistry.wustl.edu/browse
- Departmental Contact: Blake Thornton, Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies
- Timeline for Getting Started: Most students get involved in research in mathematics during their Junior and Senior years at WUSTL, after taking two or more 400 level classes. The math department runs an undergraduate research program each year—the Freiwald Scholars Program—that provides funding for a few students to stay on campus working with a faculty member over summer. As a part of this program, the students also take a course (Honors Seminar in Mathematics, Math 401) during the semester before their funded summer to prepare for the research program. The participants of this program typically write an honors thesis on the topics explored during the program. The Freiwald Scholars program will be run in Spring and Summer 2024 by Prof Ali Daemi on the topic of Knot Theory.
- During Summer 2024, there is an additional opportunity for students interested in research in math, but who have not taken classes at the 400 level or above. Prof Martha Precup will lead a new reading course—called the Freiwald Summer Course—in computational and algebraic combinatorics. This course will give students the opportunity to explore new mathematical ideas and collaborate with peers. Participation in the Freiwald Summer Course includes summer funding. Competitive applicants will be first or second year students with a strong academic record who have taken at least one math course at WUSTL and plan to complete a math major.
- Beyond the Freiwald Scholars Program and Freiwald Summer Course, many students work with a faculty member over the course of a semester, conducting independent research for a maximum of three units of course credits. In these cases, students discuss research opportunities with a faculty mentor directly.
- How to Prepare: Most research opportunities in math, including the Freiwald Scholars Program, require upper level course work. Exactly which courses are needed depend on which faculty member is supervising the research. For specific advice, students interested in conducting research in math are highly encouraged to reach out to faculty whose work they admire!
- Applicants to the Freiwald Summer Course are not required to have any particular coursework beyond having taken at least one math course at WUSTL.
- Departmental On-Ramps: If you are interested in research, the first step is to talk to your professors or other faculty whose work interests you! There is no one path to conducting research and it’s important to discuss your options.
- The participants of the Freiwald Scholars Program and Freiwald Summer Course are not expected to have prior experience. The application deadlines for this program will be respectively on on November 10, 2023 and February 2024. (The exact deadline for the Freiwald Summer Course will be announced later.) Check out the website for more information!
- Other Info: More information on undergraduate research, the Freiwald Scholars Program, and Freiwald Summer Course is available on the Math Department’s Undergraduate Research Page: https://math.wustl.edu/undergraduate-research
- Departmental Contact: Ryan Ogliore, Associate Professor & Director of Undergraduate Research
- Timeline for Getting Started: February is a good time for students to start contacting faculty about summer research.
- How to Prepare: Specific skills will vary between faculty, but most faculty are happy to take enthusiastic students and train them on the job.
- Departmental On-Ramps: We have a robust summer research program in Physics, funded through various sources. Some students also do research during the semester.
- Other Info: https://physics.wustl.edu/fellowships-and-prizes
Statistics and Data Science
- Departmental Contact: Jose E. Figueroa-Lopez, Associate Chair of Statistics and Data Science
- Timeline for Getting Starting: Junior year
- How to Prepare: Calculus and 3-4 core courses in their majors
- Departmental On-Ramps: Students are encouraged to talk to faculty, many of whom are willing to work with students in their honor thesis or through the summer on a research project. We also have a fellowship to support students doing research during summer.