Undergraduate research is an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline (www.cur.org). Undergraduate research is done in each division and department at UCSC, and includes a wide range of endeavors, from performance arts to literary criticism to laboratory research on treatments for cancer.
You will benefit both academically and through career exploration as you engage in the pursuit of knowledge. In addition, the creativity, curiosity, ability to focus, diligence, verbal and written fluency, and respect for others’ contributions that are necessary to thrive as an undergraduate researcher are critical precursors for understanding and engaging in modern cultural, academic, and professional challenges. Participating in UR can be critically important for being accepted into graduate school.
Undergraduates do research in every division and department at UC Santa Cruz. Since UCSC is a research university, active participation in research should be an integral part of your education. See Preparing for Undergraduate Research.
It is critical for you to start the process of finding a program or position as soon as possible, since you have limited time at the university. Begin by reading the Preparing for Undergraduate Research page and continue by looking at the resources listed on the page for your division under UCSC Divisions under the For Students menu tab.
If you are in a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) field, consider attending WEST, Workshops for Engineering & Science Transfers. WEST gives transferring students a jump-start on entering UCSC science and engineering majors.
To find a position, you will need to build personal relationships with faculty. Go to office hours weekly for at least one class. In addition to helping you with the class, the professor can help you find out about possible positions and can write you letters of recommendation. Ask questions about the class and the professor's research and career path.
Begin to research summer programs as soon as possible. It may be challenging to get a position on campus if you have just arrived, and a successful summer research experience may give you an advantage. See STEM Summer Research.
Consider classes in your department that involve research. You can get credit and also build a relationship with a professor.
You can contact the International Education Office for more information.
The answer depends on what field you are in. Some professors require that you have taken advanced classes in your major while other investigators are looking for enthusiastic students without a specific background. Contact the program or professor if you have questions about the necessary prerequisites.
There are many opportunities available on and off of campus. Start by talking to graduate students, professors, your academic advisor, and fellow students. Ask how you can get infolved in research or if they know of anyone looking for assistance. Continue by looking at:
- your division's and department's webpages
- the page for your division under UCSC Divisions
- the UCSC Undergraduate Research Opportunities Database and the Other Research Opportunities webpage
- SlugQuest and the Employee Request (ER) System at the UCSC Career Center
- See possible research related listings on SlugQuest
- Environmental Studies Internship Program
- Arts Division Internship Program
- Digital Art and New Media Call for Undergraduate Researchers
There are many ways to help fund your research. First, consult with your mentor. For more information, go to the page for your division under UCSC Divisions.
You should begin looking into opportunities and talking to professors as soon as possible, ideally during or after your first or second year. If you ask what the professor looks for in an undergraduate research assistant while you are still taking general classes, you can make sure you have the necessary requirements to join the research group.
If you are planning to transfer to UCSC, look into what professors are doing for their research before you come. Email them and ask what they look for in a student researcher.
If you get involved in research early in your college career, you might be able to work in multiple positions or in one position for several years. Extensive experience can help you figure out what topics and methods most interest you.
Go to Join a Lab or Research Group for more information.
I've done some research and am thinking about graduate school, but would like more experience before I apply. What can I do?
Consider a post baccalaureate program. These programs provide recent college graduates who are planning to apply to graduate or professional (medical/dental/pharmacy) school an opportunity to spend one or two years performing full-time research. See What's Next? for more information.