Student Researcher's Handbook
Finding research opportunities as an undergraduate can be difficult.
Here are some helpful hints to aid in your journey.
to Get Started
When looking for a research or creative project,
explore subjects you’re
passionate about, but remember to remain open to other possibilities.
Inspiration may come from a personal experience, a class, a topic
within your major, or an interdisciplinary combination of several
topics. Try to find what is available and match existing opportunities
your interests and commitments. Some on-campus
opportunities and off-campus
opportunities are announced on
the UROP Web site and through school and department bulletins, but
be aware that many opportunities are not listed. If you are interested
in working on campus and have identified a faculty mentor you
would like to work with, contact her/him to express your interest
(see Selecting a Mentor, below, for our recommended
procedures to find and contact a potential mentor). If you
would like more information on specific research opportunities,
contact the UROP Office for an advising appointment.
It is very important to prepare before approaching a faculty
member or applying for a research position. We recommend that you
use UCI’s Faculty
Profile System to find professors who are
working on topics that interest you. Find out what they have written
or performed, and read articles they have had published in journals.
Try to attend one of their lectures, performances, or productions.
This will give you an idea of the type of work they are doing and
will demonstrate your
level of interest to the faculty member. Check our on-campus
opportunities listings to see if the professor
you are interested in has submitted an opportunity. Whether or not
the professor has listed an opportunity online, we
encourage you to contact them if you are interested in doing research
under their guidance.
To contact a potential faculty mentor, we recommend sending her/him
a three-paragraph e-mail. Introduce yourself to the faculty member
in the first paragraph: why you
are interested in doing research, why this topic interests you,
relevant background and skills you have. Use the second paragraph
to tell the faculty member why you have chosen her/him as a potential
mentor: what you know about them (including papers of theirs you
have read, times you have heard them speak, and performances you
have seen them give),
what they have done that interests you, and what you hope to get
out of working with them. In the third paragraph, express your
desire to meet with the faculty member and list your availability
for the next several weeks. We have prepared a
sample e-mail you can use as a guide; be sure to personalize it to highlight
your own interests, strengths and weaknesses.
|Expectations & Commitment
When you meet a potential faculty mentor in person, be on time,
dress properly, answer questions honestly, and be prepared to ask
questions in turn. Consider taking a copy of your resume for their
reference; while this is not required, it shows that you are well
prepared. Be sure to
thank them for their time.
It is important to learn as much as possible about a potential mentor/mentee relationship beforehand; it can reduce the number of surprises
you might experience later. Consider asking some or all of these questions:
It is between you and the faculty member to decide if your interests match for a research or creative project.
- What will be my specific responsibilities?
- Who will be my direct supervisor?
- How many hours will I be expected to devote to research per week?
- Is this a group or individual project?
- Will I get academic credit? If so, what is expected for me to earn an “A”?
- Are there additional materials I should read or classes I should take to better prepare me for the research?
It is important to ask your faculty mentor how much time you will be expected to spend on research. Be honest and realistic with your
commitments, taking into consideration your coursework, employment, and leisure activities. Consider also that most research projects range
from two quarters to several years in duration. Find a research opportunity that complements your interests and time schedule without
overextending your capabilities. If you have a low GPA, we encourage you to focus on improving your grades before getting involved with research.
Computer proficiency is an important skill in performing research, and you should be able to use a computer and the Internet to perform a
number of basic tasks. You must have an e‑mail account; if you do not, go to the
Office of Information Technology Web site to establish a free account using your UCI student ID. In addition, the Internet is a valuable
research tool; it contains vast amounts of information that can help your research, and it can provide you with current information on relevant
topics, programs, and organizations.
To document your research, you should be proficient with a word processing program, such as Word, and possibly a spreadsheet program, such
as Excel. These will help you record your data and findings in an organized manner, and will be valuable tools when you are ready to publish
the results of your research.
To help you present your research, you should be familiar with presentation software, such as PowerPoint. Thoughtfully designed PowerPoint
slides, along with a confident speaking style, can make your presentations dynamic and memorable.
Depending on your field of research or creative work, there may
be additional programs you should learn; ask your faculty mentor
Funding is available for faculty-mentored undergraduate research
projects and creative activities both on and off campus. On-campus
for undergraduate research is provided through UROP, which offers
two types of funding.
UROP offers grants to help students offset the costs of research-related supplies, materials and expenses through separate Calls for Proposals in the Fall and Spring. These Calls fund a variety of projects, with grants normally less than $1,000 for individual projects, although higher amounts can be awarded for group projects.
Several summer programs offer students a stipend to support
the time and effort they put into research. The Summer
Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) provides funding
for undergraduates who are conducting summer research projects
or creative activities under the guidance of UCI faculty members.
Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (ID-SURE) provides
funding for continuing UCI undergraduates from all disciplines
who are conducting interdisciplinary summer research projects
or creative activities related to health promotion and disease
prevention under the guidance of UCI faculty members. The Summer
Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Information Technology (SURF-IT)
provides the opportunity for non-graduating UCI juniors and
seniors to become involved in IT-related research under the
guidance of UCI faculty mentors. The Edwards
Lifesciences Summer Undergraduate Research Program (E-SURP)
provides funding for UCI undergraduates who are conducting summer
research projects under
the guidance of UCI faculty mentors who are associated with
the Edwards Lifesciences Center for Advanced Cardiovascular
Technology. The Chemistry
Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (Chem-SURF), formerly
co-sponsored by UROP, offers undergraduates from UCI and around
the country the opportunity to perform research under UCI faculty
mentors in chemistry and chemistry-related fields.
During the school year, UROP also sponsors
the Multidisciplinary Design Program (MDP),
which engages UCI undergraduates from all disciplines in design
teams co-sponsored by at least two faculty mentors from different schools.
Additionally, many off-campus programs offer
students travel allowances, room and board, and/or stipends. The amount of support varies for each program and student.
Your research proposal is primarily a request for recognition
and funding of a particular project. It typically includes a topic
or thesis statement, background or introductory information, the
objective or significance of your research, methods or expected
results, a timeline for the project, references, and an itemized
budget (UROP proposals only).
Proposals for UROP, SURP, E-SURP,
and ID-SURE grants require a letter of support
from your faculty
mentor and a personal statement from you. Projects involving
human or live animal research may also require IRB or IACUC approval,
respectively; proposals will not be approved unless required IRB
or IACUC applications
have been submitted. Proposals are evaluated based on the intellectual
merit of the student’s
research, a complete application, level of support from the faculty
mentor, the student’s transcript, and available funding. In
addition to presenting workshops on how to write a proposal, UROP
Guidelines (PDF) and offers a number of sample
proposals similar to ones that have been accepted for funding
in the past.
Only proposals for UROP grants need to include an itemized budget;
SURP, E-SURP, and ID-SURE stipends are awarded
to students for their time and effort, not for purchases. Items
that can be covered by a UROP grant include chemicals, supplies,
reference materials, animals, mailing, copying/printing, communication
mileage, software, compensation for human subjects, travel, presentation
materials, rental of facilities, or any other related costs. Items
that are NOT covered include major hardware purchases, salaries
and stipends, travel expenditures only, or items that can be borrowed
or rented at a much lower cost. See the Proposal
Guidelines (for UROP, SURP, E-SURP and ID-SURE)
for more information, and browse through the sample
proposals (for UROP and for SURP,
E-SURP, and ID-SURE) for examples.
Faculty members and research organizations may ask for a personal statement describing your background and interest in working with them.
If a maximum/minimum number of words or pages is not specified, the general rule for a personal statement is two pages, double-spaced. Make
sure you provide details and solid evidence of your achievements and strengths. Customize your personal statement to the specific program for
which you are applying. Discuss relevant courses you have completed, applicable previous work or research experience, volunteer or extracurricular
activities that are related to the project, and any relevant awards or honors you may have received.
You will typically be asked to provide letters
of recommendation or references when applying for a research fellowship
or position. Letters from faculty are preferred, but letters from
administrators, employers, and graduate students can be used in
some cases. Give the person who is
writing your recommendation a clear deadline; be sure to provide
them ample time to prepare the letter (advance notice of several
weeks is often a good idea when requesting letters from faculty).
You may also request permission to copy letters of recommendation
for future use. If you are asking them to
mail the letter directly, which some programs or fellowships require,
you should provide them an addressed, stamped envelope. Remember
to send thank you notes not only to the writers of your letters
of recommendation, but also to others who have helped in the process,
including mentors and granting
It is very important to have your resume ready and updated at all times, regardless of your discipline. Many programs
and professors ask for resumes before considering students for research positions. The
UCI Career Center provides workshops and guides on how to prepare a resume. You may also contact the UROP Office for help.
Networking is a valuable and necessary tool that
can help open many doors for you both academically and professionally.
It is important to begin networking early in your academic career
to develop contacts and help you define your areas of interest.
faculty members, administrators, students, and visitors whenever
possible, and meet and interact with each professor from your classes.
Be prepared to articulate your own ideas in a concise and intelligent
manner. The annual UCI
Undergraduate Research Symposium, held each May, is an excellent
opportunity to meet many faculty members and other undergraduate
It is extremely important to adhere to university research conduct rules and demonstrate the highest ethical standards.
As members of the University community, students engaged in research are not to fabricate data or results; change or knowingly omit data or
results to misrepresent results in the research record; or intentionally misappropriate the ideas, writings, research, or findings of others.
Most research studies that involve human subjects or animals require institutional approval through
IRB or IACUC, respectively, before the start of the project.
Document all of your information in an organized
manner. You may want to keep a working file of your sources, references
and contacts. Keep copies of all applications, correspondence,
reports, and proposals that you submit. You may need to
refer to them in the future.
|Health & Safety
All research must be conducted according to university
safety rules. Students conducting research often use equipment,
materials or energy that may be hazardous to their health, safety
or the environment. You need to have your own medical insurance
and must discuss with your faculty supervisor the safety rules
that govern their specific laboratory or project. Educate yourself
about general safety
and important research conduct regulations and policies for research
conducted with human or live
It is important to be able to present effectively
what you have researched. We encourage you to attend symposia and
conferences, both as a presenter and an attendee, to stay abreast
of developments in your area of study. UCI offers the opportunity
for undergraduates to present their research at the annual UCI
Undergraduate Research Symposium, which is held each May. Students
may present in a variety of formats, including orally (which also
includes performances) or through a poster or display. The Symposium Call
for Abstracts is announced to all faculty and undergraduates
in the Winter Quarter of every year, and abstracts are due approximately
one month before the Symposium. UROP encourages all undergraduates
involved in research to attend and participate in this event. In
addition to offering detailed Symposium
Presentation Guidelines (PDF), UROP conducts workshops on presentation
techniques prior to the Symposium.
You must be able to think critically and formulate
a well-researched and clearly organized paper on your research.
We encourage you to submit a paper
for possible publication in The
UCI Undergraduate Research Journal, which is published
annually and accepts papers from UCI undergraduates in any discipline
who have conducted research with a UCI faculty mentor. The Call
for Papers is announced to all faculty and undergraduates
early in Spring Quarter of every year, and the submission deadline
is usually at the beginning of July. UROP offers Paper
Submission Guidelines (PDF) to help you in writing and submitting
your paper to the Journal.