Claim your curiosity.

Getting Started

Getting started in undergraduate research can seem daunting at first, but there are lots of opportunities out there.  Below you'll find some suggestions and videos about how to get started.

Identify your Interests
One way to get started in research is to identify some topics, problems, ideas, or activities that interest you.
  • What have been some of your favorite classes?  What about these classes interested you?
  • What would you like to learn more about?
  • What types of research have you done in previous classes?  What did you like about this research, and what didn't you like?
  • What kinds of skills and knowledge would you like to develop, either for personal fulfillment or for a future career?  Consulting with the Career Center might help you identify these skills.

Familiarize Yourself with Undergraduate Research in Your Field

Undergraduate research can look very different in various disciplines.  A good initial step for you to get involved in research is to gain an understanding of what undergraduate research looks like in your major.  Talk with your professors, advisors, and other undergraduate and graduate students in your department to gain a better understanding of what kinds of opportunities exist within your discipline.  The following questions might be good to ask:

  • Do undergraduate researchers often work in groups (such as in a lab) or individually?
  • Are there opportunities to get paid for doing research?  If so, how competitive are these positions?
  • Can you get class credit for doing undergraduate research?

You can also view the titles and descriptions of past student projects in your discipline presented at the Undergraduate Research Symposium or that received Undergraduate Research Awards

Consult with the Center for Undergraduate Research to Find out How to Start

Participate in activities offered through our office that will give you clear guidance about how to get started:

  • Individual Consultations: Staff members with the Center for Undergraduate Research are available to meet with students individually to help them create a plan for getting involved with undergraduate research. During the fall and spring semesters, we hold drop-in office hours every Friday from 10:00-noon in our office in 151 Strong Hall. No need to make an appointment, just stop by!  During the summer or if you can't make it on Fridays in the fall or spring, simply send us an email to set up an individual appointment.
  • Student Events: Every semester, we host events for students to meet current student researchers and Center staff to learn about ways to get involved. Check our calendar of events for more details.

Connect with a Research Mentor

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  • Review the faculty profiles on your department's website to gain a sense of each faculty member's research interests. Make a short list of a few faculty whose research interests you.
  • Don't limit yourself to finding a research mentor in the department that matches your major.  Be aware that there are many research centers on the KU campus, including the Kansas Geological Survey, the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, or the Center for Research Methods and Data Analysis.  Browse these websites for opportunities to get involved with research as well.
  • Before you contact a research mentor, do your homework.  Read about their research on their website and look up a couple of their publications so you can appear knowledgeable when you talk to that person.
  • Contact a potential mentor. Tips for success:
    • Be professional. Write your email and conduct your conversation in a respectful tone, particularly if you have not worked with this person before.
    • Be able to articulate why you are interested in research and what you'd like to learn.
    • Discuss your general research interests as well as the more practical aspects, such as how much time both you and the mentor expect to devote to your research.
    • Be brief. Faculty members receive many emails so be aware that a short paragraph is much more likely to be read than a two page email.
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Tips for Success

  • Don't get discouraged if the first idea that you have doesn't pan out.  Be persistent and you'll be able to find a good mentor and research opportunity.  Remember that staff at the Center for Undergraduate Research are here to help  you! Send us an email at or call us at 785-864-5733.
  • Be willing to start at the bottom and take advantage of what opportunities are available. You might start out doing a research task that is repetitive, but you'll be able to move up to more complicated research procedures as you gain experience.

Connect With Us
Research teaches critical thinking and problem solving — top skills sought by employers
The Research Experience Program has certified more than 2,000 students since 2005
KU is a member of the Council on Undergraduate Research
More than 1,200 students have received Undergraduate Research Awards since 1986
More than 150 mentors sponsored undergraduate projects through the Center for Undergraduate Research each year
KU's first valedictorian, Flora Richardson, conducted research as an undergraduate before graduating in 1873
Highlight your research on your transcript: Get certified through the Research Experience Program
Use research to apply what you learned in the classroom to a real problem
Students who perform research develop strong relationships with KU faculty
Research is a hands-on way to explore career options
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report