Getting Started

One of the first steps for faculty members to begin in undergraduate research is to identify how students can fit into your own research plans.

Start by thinking about what support duties a beginning student could help you with. Do your graduate students need assistance? Is there a piece of your project that can be carved off into a “doable chunk” for an undergraduate? Is there a study you would like to pilot but don’t have enough time? Remember, for an undergraduate the experience is the goal — even if the project does not result in a publication, they still will have gained much experience from working with you.

Find Students to Work With You

If you don’t already have a student in mind or don’t have access to students this semester through classes you instruct, here are some other ways to recruit students:

  • Post your research job opportunity to this site via our job posting form.
  • Post fliers in the hallways of buildings where students you would like to hire frequent.
  • Ask colleagues to make an announcement in appropriate courses.

If you find a younger student than you had hoped for, you may be able to find something to engage them, while you wait for them to complete course work that you feel is necessary. Mentoring a student from their freshmen through senior year can be a rewarding experience!

Clarify the Role of the Student

When problems arise between mentors and students, it is usually because the roles and expectations were not clear and mutually agreed-upon. Here are some suggestions:

  • Have the student provide you with a weekly schedule, including the number of hours (and days/times) the student will be working on the research project. It is wise to hold the student accountable to a regular, weekly schedule at the beginning of the experience.
  • Outline your expectations of the student, including any extra reading required.
  • Outline the best way for the student to communicate with you. Do you have an open-door policy? How do you like to make appointments? Do you want the student to come to the meeting prepared with something specific? Are you going to be out of town for an extended period? Who can the student go to for advice if you are gone?
  • What timeline do you have for the project? Are there goals that can be broken down by weeks or months?
  • What is the student’s main responsibility? What decisions (if any) can he or she make independently? How should a student be documenting his or her work?
  • Have regular formal meetings with the student to provide feedback on the quality and quantity of their work. Set these meetings up ahead of time, before problems develop and it is more difficult to offer constructive criticism.
  • Describe to students how they can grow into the project as they gain more skills and experience. Without knowing what can develop, students may see some of the entry level work as a dead-end.

Explore Funding Opportunities

If you have a National Science Foundation (NSF) or National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant, you may be able to get a Research Experiences for Undergraduate supplement. See Frequently asked questions or talk with the program director at your granting agency to find out if there are one-time supplements available to support undergraduate research partners.

If you are writing a grant proposal and need some assistance with budget suggestions, text, or providing structure to an undergraduate research experience, or need a letter of support, contact Linda Blockus, PhD, (

If your student has work-study money, contact your department work-study contact or Rob McDaniels ( in the Career Center.

If your student is a first generation college/low income student or is a member of an ethnic group underrepresented in graduate studies, have the student look into the McNair Scholars Program.

Other resources