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Should you participate in research as an undergraduate? Only if you are interested in an experience that can lead you to view your field from a new perspective, clarify your career goals, develop lasting relationships with faculty and graduate student mentors, work and communicate effectively as part of a team, learn to deal with challenges, and strengthen future applications for jobs and graduate school.
As its name suggests, the Undergraduate Research Program is a central resource for facilitating year-round research experiences for undergraduates on and off campus. If desired, you may make an appointment with a staff member to discuss opportunities, procedures etc.
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Think about why you want this experience: are you just curious about research in general? Are you passionate about a certain area or topic? Are you looking for a short-term position or a long-term experience that might result in a senior thesis or publication? Are you interested in pursuing an advanced degree or in entering the work force right after graduation? These factors can help you decide whether to look for opportunities within academic research labs or explore industrial internships, what opportunities suit your background/training, when to begin your involvement, etc.
Identify a research mentor/opportunity. Many students begin this search by browsing through descriptions of faculty research projects on department websites; most research-active faculty have a page that describes their current areas of research interest and includes citations to their recent publications. Faculty projects for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry are given online; the Undergraduate Research Program also provides a convenient listing of equivalent pages for faculty research in other departments. (Please note that you are not limited to doing research within the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; there are a wide range of projects in other departments that you might find of interest. The central nature of chemistry as a discipline means that our students can bring valuable skills and insights to molecularly-based projects in other departments.) As an undergraduate you are not expected to come in with your own research project or topic (as may be true in other non-science programs), but will most likely be assigned initially to an ongoing project in the lab, generally under the supervision of a graduate student. As you progress in skill and experience, ideally so will your independence and engagement in the group’s research.
Consider other sources of information about research opportunities as well – e.g., your academic advisor; a course instructor in an area of interest; other students who are already involved in research; or public presentations such the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium hosted by the URP, in which students present posters on the research they conducted under the auspices of the Summer Scholars program.
When you have identified and prioritized some possible research labs, it is time to contact the faculty member. Most students do this by an email in which you: introduce yourself (including a resume), express your interest in their research area (being specific if possible), state the time frame in which you’re interested in doing research (e.g., next semester, summer, etc.), and ask if s/he would have time to meet/discuss this with you at office hours or in a private appointment. Ideally you will receive a reply within a few days; if not, you might stop by during office hours to speak with the faculty member in person, or go on to your next choice. (Please be aware that a researcher’s ability to take new students into a lab is often restricted by external factors such as space, funding limitations, prior commitments to other students, etc.; rejections need not be taken personally.) Faculty researchers will be most interested in students who seem genuinely enthusiastic about undertaking research and can give some good reason(s) for why they are interested in that particular lab.
Decide on the research format(s) and timing that work best for you and your mentor. You may work as a volunteer, for research credits, or for pay. (Getting paid to do research is not very common for undergraduates.) If you are relatively inexperienced and/or just want to see what it’s like to be in a research lab, offering your services as a volunteer allows you to show your research mentor your abilities, and may help with getting a more permanent position later. Most students end up working for credits by enrolling in a research course. The general correlation between number of research credits and time spent on research is as follows: 1 credit hour = 3-5 work hours per week; 2 credit hours = 6-9 work hours per week; and 3 credit hour = 10-12 work hours per week. (Your research mentor may have different expectations, however – this is something that should be clearly understood by both parties as your begin your research commitment.)
Working for credit means enrolling in one of the following research courses (all of which fulfill (in whole or part) the University Discovery Learning Experience requirement:
CHEM 468, Undergraduate Research (1-6 credits). You cannot enroll in CHEM 468 on your own. To register, you must have first identified a research mentor and gotten his/her agreement for you to register for a specific number of credits for that semester. You then send an email to your mentor (copied to Ms. Linda Staib, email@example.com, in the Chemistry Office) asking for permission to enroll in CHEM 468 for “x” number of credits. The mentor’s reply should be copied to Ms. Staib as well, allowing her to enroll you in CHEM 468.
UNIV 401 and UNIV 402, Senior Thesis Course (2-4 credits each for a total of 6 credits). Note that you must take UNIV 402 for three credits if you plan to use it to (1) satisfy the second writing requirement and/or (2) serve as a Capstone Course for an Honors degree.) Information about registration for UNIV 401 is provided by the Undergraduate Research Program.An Honors option for a required lab course: CHEM 334H, Honors Organic Chemistry Majors Laboratory (2 credits) CHEM 438H, Honors Instrumental Methods Laboratory (1 credit) CHEM 445H, Honors Physical Chemistry I Laboratory (1 credit) CHEM 446H, Honors Physical Chemistry II Laboratory (1 credit) CHEM 458H, Honors Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory (1 credit)
The Honors options replace traditional course lab work with research projects, generally conducted in a faculty research lab, and so require instructor/mentor permission. (The organic faculty generally coordinate enrollment in CHEM 334H, and will discuss procedures in CHEM 331.) These courses are open to Honors Program students with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Students with a minimum GPA of 3.0 who are not in the Honors Program may request enrollment by completing the Honors Course Request Form. (Honors Program students may need to use the same form to request enrollment, depending on the course.) If you are interested in conducting research in a department other than Chemistry or Biochemistry, you may need to register under that department’s equivalent of CHEM 468, or register for an independent study. The Undergraduate Research Program offers pertinent advice for this situation.
Consider how much time you will be able to devote to research, and discuss this with your research mentor before setting up your semester schedule. Some projects may require large contiguous blocks of time or access to instrumentation only on certain days or times, while others are more flexible, allowing work over shorter times scattered throughout a week. Many students find winter sessions to be ideal for research, since there are no conflicts with coursework. You may enroll in CHEM 468 to get credit for the research on your transcript, but this will require paying tuition. If you want to work over winter without credit/tuition, you can enroll in the zero-credit course UNIV 369.
A senior thesis documents the design, conduction, analysis, and discussion of results generated from a major independent research project. It represents perhaps the highest level of academic achievement possible in an undergraduate program, and provides compelling evidence to others of your initiative, perseverance, and ability to make an original contribution to our body of knowledge. The successful completion and oral presentation and defense of a senior thesis is one of the requirements for earning the Degree with Distinction. The Undergraduate Research Program oversees a Senior Thesis Program, established to provide a sense of community among students working towards this degree. Enrollment in UNIV 401-402 during the senior year is part of this program, and completion of six credits of UNIV 401-402 is another requirement for the Degree with Distinction. A full discussion of the Senior Thesis Program and its requirements is available online.
These can range from formal summer programs offered by other universities and government labs to industrial internships. (Under some circumstances students may earn credit for research conducted off campus; see the guidelines link to Internship-rules pdf file governing this policy for more details.) Links to some representative programs are given below.
Students may earn Honors B.S. degrees in Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Honors B.A. degrees in Chemistry and Chemistry Education. An Honors degree may also be earned with Distinction. A candidate for an Honors Degree with Distinction in chemistry or biochemistry must fulfill all of the requirements for the Honors degree (listed earlier link to HD pdf’s). In addition, six credits of UNIV 401-402, and the successful completion and oral presentation of a thesis are required. Note that UNIV 401-402 may be taken for Honors credit, and will count towards the 12 Honors credits required at the 300-level or higher. UNIV 402 also counts as the required Honors senior capstone course, and fulfills the second writing requirement.
Honors courses at or below the 400-level within the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry are usually free-standing sections rather than add-on sections. Graduate level courses that are not being taken to fulfill a degree requirement can be counted for Honors credit. Courses that are usually offered in an Honors format include the following; they are taught during the same terms as their regular section counterparts.CHEM 111H Honors General Chemistry ICHEM 112H Honors General Chemistry IICHEM 115H Honors Introduction to Chemical SciencesCHEM 120H Honors Quantitative AnalysisCHEM 331H Honors Organic Chemistry CHEM 334H Honors Organic Chemistry Majors LaboratoryCHEM 444H Honors Physical Chemistry ICHEM 445H Honors Physical Chemistry Laboratory ICHEM 446H Honors Physical Chemistry Laboratory IICHEM 458H Honors Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory Eligibility for enrollment in Honors classes requires a GPA of 3.0 or higher; eligible students in the Honors Program are given priority seating over those not in the program.
There are a variety of options for students interested in the opportunity to experience other cultures and regions of the world while completing coursework.
The University’s Institute for Global Studies (IGS) offers numerous travel study programs; consult this site for a list of programs being offered as well as full details about the application and acceptance processes. (Please note that many programs are competitive and fill up quickly; to enroll in a winter session program, e.g., you may need to submit an application in the preceding spring.) For most students, the most convenient time to go abroad is during winter session of either the sophomore or freshman year. (This leaves winter session of junior year open for research or an internship.) Winter session programs generally require that you enroll in at least 6 credits; programs that are open to a variety of majors will usually have at least one course that counts for a breadth or language requirement, while more specialized programs may offer upper level required or elective courses in that major.
If you are double-majoring in a language and want to spend a full fall or spring semester away from campus, the optimal times to do this depend on your major: for a B.S.Chemistry major, going abroad in the fall of junior year seems to offer the fewest complications, since the content of CHEM 444 (a spring course) is not dependent on having had CHEM 443 (a fall course) first. For a B.S.Biochemistry major, leaving in the sping of junior year works best, since CHEM 643 ( fall coyrse) has CHEM 641 (another fall course) as a prerequisite.
Exchange programs allow you to enroll in an international university for a semester or full year; the Institute for Global Studies maintains a searchable database indicating what programs are available. One program of particular interest to chemistry and biochemistry majors is TASSEP (Trans-Atlantic Science Student Exchange Program); the program is designed to allow students to take most of their normal junior year science courses abroad, while paying their usual UD tuition. Details for a given semester of the program should appear in the IGS database; Prof. Andrew Teplyakov link to firstname.lastname@example.org in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department is the local contact, however, if you have questions.