Getting Involved in Undergraduate Research

About the author: Nick is a rising senior undergraduate in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Delaware. He is a member of the UD Crew team and has been involved in research in the Killian Lab since 2016. He is a UD Summer Scholar and currently identifying the localization of Fgf receptors in the developing tendon-bone attachment.

Getting involved in research as an undergraduate student can seem like a daunting task. Nevertheless, it can also be a beneficial and rewarding experience. Additionally, research can typically be counted towards elective credits as well as being an excellent boost to your resume. Many students believe that they are unable to participate in undergraduate research until later in their college careers. However, undergraduate research can begin as early as freshman or sophomore year. Even with a busy schedule, research can be done outside of class time, during winter session, and in the summer months.

Find your interest: The first step in the process is figuring out what topic of research most interests you. It is important to find a topic that interests you. Different professors will have different backgrounds and research goals. For example, Dr. Killian’s lab focuses on musculoskeletal development and rehabilitation, while other labs may focus on other topics such as cancer therapy and diagnosis, or disease modeling.

UG Research
Photo from the University of Delaware Biological Sciences UG Research website

Utilize resources to find a potential lab: The University of Delaware has extensive resources to help students get involved. The Office of Undergraduate Research on campus is an excellent source of information on how to determine your interests and get in touch with professors. Using the University website is useful for finding a list of the faculty and their specific area of research. While looking through the list of professors, make note of any research topics that interest you. It is important to compile a shortlist of professors, as there is no guarantee that the professor you are most interested in will have a place for you in their lab at that moment. Don’t be discouraged by this, as spots will typically open up throughout the year.

Send a (professional) message: The next step will be getting in contact with these professors. Email is a common form of communication. It is important to know how to draft a professional email to your professors so that they take your request for research seriously. Typically, there will be a meeting with the professor once communication has been established to discuss your goals and discuss more in depth the focus of the lab research as well as what you individually hope to achieve while working in lab. If all goes well, you will find that you are a good fit and you will be able to begin doing research.

Be flexible: It is also important to note that you will not always know exactly what you want to do right away. Due to the complexity of most research labs there are a number of different roles that you can take on in lab. It is ok to try different aspects of research until you find something that you can enjoy doing while also being productive. Being able to set realistic goals for your research is important. Time management and organization play a large part in ensuring you are able to finish projects by deadlines with the high quality expected from your professor. Involvement in undergraduate research is a doable task that will greatly enhance your college experience.

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