Before you delve into undergraduate research, you should figure out what you are interested in. Have you taken a class that sparked your curiosity? Is there a professor whose research sounds fascinating to you? Special topics courses or upper-division seminars can provide insight into an area of research, and may help you connect with possible research mentors.
Undergraduate research topics can be in any discipline - our undergraduate research fellows have had projects ranging from a study of sound symbolism in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings to finding new plant-based cures for tuberculosis. So don't be afraid to branch out and find a topic you are passionate about!
Most of the research conducted at Auburn begins with a student approaching a faculty member, department chair, advisor, or another student who has been involved in undergraduate research. If there are courses that capture your interest, speak to those faculty members about their ongoing research and whether they are interested in and able to work with you
The chair of your department (or a department you might be interested in joining) usually knows which faculty members welcome undergraduates in their research group, or which faculty have guided undergraduates in research projects.
You may also speak to graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) and undergraduate students who are currently doing research about their projects. They can advise you on which faculty members are best suited to your interests.
Finally, you can reach out to your academic advisor for help with finding a mentor, or check out the current and past listing of undergraduate research fellows to find out the names of their research mentors.
Once you have found someone in your college or department with similar interests, send them an email, or better yet, visit them in person! Keep in mind that many professors are looking for students who are generally interested in doing research in the faculty member's area of specialty, not students who simply want to check off a requirement. The more committed you are to their goals, the better luck you will have. That said, take the time to find out something about their research.
There are plenty of research opportunities outside of Auburn University available to undergraduates as early as freshman year. We keep a list of external research fellowships, or you can search for a project yourself. Two of the main sites that list research experiences for undergraduates (REUs) are the National Science Foundation and Oak Ridge Associated Universities.
Check our External Opportunities page for spring, fall, and summer research postings.
Like we said earlier, you can take special topics courses or seminars to provide insight on a possible research project. Another option is to take a research course - many majors have dedicated research courses for undergraduates, which can help you hone your skills and connect with future research mentors.
Take initiative! One of the reasons undergraduate research can set you apart from your peers is because it shows determination and a commitment to excellence, so do not be afraid to approach a professor or advisor to ask about working with them on their research or asking them to connect you with a professor that shares your interests. The Office of Undergraduate Research is here as an asset as well - contact us if you have any questions or problems getting involved with research.
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Last modified: January 10, 2020