Physical & Biological Sciences Division

Physical & Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research

The Division of Physical & Biological Sciences (PBSci) is committed to the founding vision of UC Santa Cruz. We fuse innovative learning experiences with high impact research, and guarantee that students of all backgrounds are integral to our world-changing Science. Together, we explore the processes that mold the natural world – from the fundamental forces of nature and biochemical interactions, to biological evolution and the flow of energy through the oceans, atmosphere, and solid earth, to the forces that shape planets, galaxies, and the universe. Our greater than 4,500 students work beneath the redwoods of our renowned main campus, at the shore on our Coastal Campus, in the labs at the Westside Research Park, behind the telescopes of our observatories, and amid the 10,000 acres of our five natural reserves.

Students in these fields are committed to making a difference. We are currently training 23% of all undergraduates on campus. Of these undergraduate students, over 31% are first-in-family to attend college. Our student demographics closely mirror that of the nation. The brilliant minds behind our division make UC Santa Cruz a globally recognized engine for high-impact science. 

Preparing for Undergraduate Research

Finding a Research Opportunity

 Join a Lab or Research Group

Funding Your Research

Communicating Your Results-posters and papers

Student Organizations

Finding a Research Opportunity

Finding a research opportunity is a process that will take a considerable amount of time and commitment.  The suggestions below may help.

Consider your interests

  • What classes have engaged your imagination?
  • What causes or topics are you passionate about?

Evaluate your goals and consider practical issues

  • What do you hope to gain from undergraduate research?
  • Do you need a position to help you get a job after you graduate? To help you get into graduate school?
  • Do you need a paid position? Do you need academic credit? (You can't get paid and get credit for a position.)
  • Does the position require transportation?

Explore your options

Use your resources

        • Look at Join a Lab or Research Group
        • Talk to other students, including graduate students, who are doing research and ask how they got started
        • Go to office hours and ask your instructors about their work
        • Visit your Department's Undergraduate Adviser
        • Visit Career Success
        • Join a student group (see list below)
        • Investigate other online resources, such as WebGURU, guide for undergraduate research
        • If you are pre-med or pre-health, look at Aspiring Docs and the Career Center's page

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Funding Your Research

Check with the UCSC Financial Aid Office to see if you qualify for specific funding opportunities.

There are many options to help fund your undergraduate research, including external funding,  UC funding, and departmental and college grants.

Look at the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Funding page

External Funding

Additional opportunities:
        • California Space Grant Consortium Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) Scholarships in the amount of $1,000 will be awarded to California junior and senior college students attending our affiliate institutions. UCSC is an affiliate institution. Applications are due in late January.  See the website for more information.
        • California Native Plant Society, Santa Clara chapter, Student Research Scholarships.  The Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society is offering scholarships to students doing research on native plant or plant community conservation and other related botanical studies of native plants that grow in habitats in Central and Northern California. Scholarships may be awarded to: graduate students or an undergraduate student or undergraduate research team (consisting of one or more undergraduates and a supervising faculty member). Academic scholarships of $1,500 for graduate student research and a $1,000 scholarship for undergraduate student research are available. The application deadline is early April.
        • National Geographic Society Young Explorers Grant. National Geographic is committed to supporting new generations of archaeologists, anthropologists, astronomers, conservationists, ecologists, geographers, geologists, marine scientists, adventurers, storytellers, and pioneers. Today, Young Explorers grants help cover field project costs for hard-working, passionate, creative individuals with great ideas. There is an online preapplication that is due at least 10 months before the proposed work.

The Division, Department, and your Professor

The Division of Physical and Biological Sciences has several general funding opportunities.

      • The Kathryn D. Sullivan Scholarship Award in Earth & Marine Sciences is designed to encourage undergraduate student research for those pursuing degrees in disciplines related to Earth and marine sciences from a variety of perspectives: biological, physical, chemical, etc. Please use the award link for more details about deadlines and award amounts.
      • Undergraduate Research in Science & Technology Award. The Undergraduate Research in Science & Technology Endowment, funded by generous donors and alumni, supports excellence in undergraduate research in fields related to science and technology for students from any major at UC Santa Cruz. To apply you must have a UC Santa Cruz faculty sponsor, and that sponsor must complete an online recommendation for your project. Please use the award link for more details about deadlines and award amounts.
      • The Nancy Pascal Field Study Scholarship is open to any undergraduate student who is planning a field study through a campus department or program. The deadline for applications is in late February. For more information, contact the Community Studies Program Office at (83) 459-2371.
      • Friends of the Seymour Center Student Research and Education Awards from the Seymour Marine Discovery Center. The Student Research and Education Awards support undergraduate and graduate student research and education projects in the marine sciences. Funding is provided through the Friends of Seymour Center, a volunteer support organization affiliated with the Seymour Marine Discovery Center and Institute of Marine Sciences. UC Santa Cruz students may apply each fall. For more information, contact the Seymour Center at 831-459-3800.

The division's webpage includes links to awards from specific majors for

Additional awards

        • Physics offers the Ron Ruby Award to provide opportunities for undergraduates to conduct research under the mentorship of faculty in the Departments of Physics and Astronomy during the summer and following academic year. These awards may support any expenses associated with research, including a summer research stipend.  Application deadline in late May.  Contact the department for more information.
        • Kathryn D. Sullivan Scholarship Award in Earth and Marine Science may be used to satisfy educational expenses or to participate in field or laboratory research, or to pay for attending conferences or other professional development opportunities. Application due in late May. Email for more information.
        • You should also look at the scholarship site for Engineering, since some of the awards are for students in the sciences.
        • Check out the quarterly opportunities in Environmental Studies Awards.  Many are open to all majors.
        • UCSC Blum Scholar Grant Program (undergraduate and graduate students) Blum Scholar grants are offered to highly motivated students enrolled and in good standing at UC Santa Cruz. Funds can be used to pursue community-based research either domestically or abroad on poverty, social enterprise, and participatory governance.  Students awarded will assist in the development of the certificate program and demographic study commencing in Fall 2015.

UCSC Colleges

Below are some links to college pages that list funding opportunities for undergraduates in that college.  Be sure to check with your college adviser, since not all opportunities are posted online.

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Presentation Opportunities- where and when

A major facet of research is communicating what you achieved and receiving feedback from your community.  There are a wide range of venues and audiences that might be appropriate for you to target depending on the goals of your project.

Informal Discussions

Discussing your plans and results with your mentor, other lab members, fellow students and others can help you make sense of your work.  Talking about what you are doing also helps clarify your thoughts, and helps you understand your work in the context of what others are doing.

Research Group Meetings

Ask the professor or PI if it is appropriate for you to present your results at a group meeting.  These presentations usually highlight work in progress and provide an opportunity to get feedback from people who understand your research.


Many national and regional conferences welcome presentations from undergraduate students.  Your best resource for more information on this is your mentor or professor.

Conferences that Feature Undergraduate Research

American Biomedical Conference for Minority Students The conference is held in November.

American Association of Science (AAAS) Student Poster Session at the AAAS Annual Meeting
The competition recognizes the individual efforts of students actively working toward an undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral degree.

Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS).
The conference is held in early November.

UC Berkeley’s Interdisciplinary Research Conference (BIRC)
The Berkeley Interdisciplinary Research Conference (BIRC) is dedicated to empowering undergraduate students by providing them with the opportunity to present their research through oral and poster sessions. In addition to featuring original research by undergraduate students across the nation, the conference will also focus on exciting new ideas in the field presented by distinguished professors. Anyone with an interest in neuroscience, cognitive science, linguistics, psychology, anthropology, integrative biology and/or education is strongly encouraged to attend and participate. The conference is in early May.

Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM
The conference is held in late winter.

National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) 
The conference is held in the spring.

SACNAS National Conference
SACNAS is a society of scientists dedicated to fostering the success of Hispanic/Chicano and Native American scientists. The conference is in October and deadlines for abstracts vary.

Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Society
The Student Research Conferences highlight outstanding research by graduate, undergraduate and some high school students.  The Conference is held in the fall.  A virtual conference/showcase may be held in spring.

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Communicating Your Results- Posters, Papers & Presentations

Consult Your Mentor

Your mentor is the best source of information because s/he understands the culture of the discipline and how and when it is best to present your results.

Effective communication of your work is a skill you will learn and improve during your entire career. How you communicate your work will depend on your audience and your discipline.  Before you begin, review any guidelines you've been given for content, format, length, etc.  Make a draft, get feedback, practice and revise.  

The internet has a vast array of resources.  Below are a selection.  If you find another site that is especially helpful, please email



Papers for Publication

Again, your best resource on this issue is your mentor.  S/he can guide you to choose an appropriate journal and guide the writing, submission, and response to reviewers. Every journal has its own specifications on audience, length, figures, tables, etc. Listed below are a few online resources that can assist you.

Journals that Accept Papers Authored by Undergraduates

If the journal is open-access (provided to all readers with no fee), the UCSC library may be able to help with publication fees.  

Site that list journals that accept undergraduate papers in all disciplines:

For undergraduate Astrophysics papers:  Astrobites

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Student Organizations

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