1. Why should I do research as an undergraduate?
You may already have your next four years mapped out, or you may not know what direction to go just yet. Either way, engaging in research supplements your coursework and gives you inside access to the questions, problems, and topics in your chosen (or possible) field of study. What you learn in the lab will help you excel in the classroom as you see the relationship between your lessons and your research.
For many students, engaging in research is a perfect opportunity to get a “sneak peek” into a possible career.
2. Who can pursue research at the Capstone and what kinds of research projects have undergraduate students done?
The Office for Undergraduate Research affirms the University’s commitment to provide “an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our community.” Students from all majors and backgrounds pursue research, scholarship and creative performance at UA. Students may begin as early as their first semester freshman year via the Emerging Scholars Program, or they may join the ESP as a second-semester freshman or sophomore or junior. The ESP is designed to expose students to the variety of research conducted across colleges and give students a glimpse at what research would be like within specific academic disciplines. Outside of the ESP, students can work with faculty or graduate student mentors to submit work to the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Conference (http://www.urca.ua.edu) or submit their work to national undergraduate research conferences like the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research http://www.cur.org/conferences_and_events/student_events/ncur/).
Research is often linked to students or faculty members who work in the STEM areas or students who are in a designated Honors program, but we’d like to expand research opportunities to all students with an expressed interest. We also strongly encourage students from all majors to explore undergraduate research options with their advisors, faculty members, or graduate students from their departments. At the University of Alabama, we see student research from every academic area from theatre and dance to social work to advertising.
Check out our Resources tab to see the faculty research database to learn more about what your professors are doing outside of the classroom.
3. How do I get started?
There are many ways to get involved in research, and here are just a few ways to get started:
- Search the Faculty Research Database (http://www.facultyresearchdatabase.ua.edu) to see more about research opportunities/research needs in your area of interest.
- Contact an Emerging Scholar TA (http://UndergraduateResearch.ua.edu/emerging-scholars-program) or an Undergraduate Research Ambassador to learn more about how to get involved with courses such as the Emerging Scholars Program.
- Enroll in an undergraduate research methods course like PY 211 or a directed research course offered within your department.
4. How can I get funding to conduct or present my research?
Contact your department chair about securing funding to support travel and research. If you are part of a lab or a research team, ask your supervisor for information on funding to support an individual, independent project or to support travel to present your research. If your current research team or department does not offer funding, you can request funding from OUR’s undergraduate research fund (future link to come).
5. What does it mean to attend a research university and how can I benefit from it?
The University of Alabama is an R1 institute, which means it has very high activity in research. A research university is a complex and interdependent community of individuals who value the intellectual and practical benefits of original inquiry and creative expression. There are many responsibilities associated with belonging to this community. Faculty are both engaged in original research, scholarship and creative performance, and also responsible for continuing to define the boundaries between the known and the unknown, and teaching the methods that can be used to reach significant conclusions. Students also have many responsibilities as they abandon novice-like approaches to learning and embrace the more expert-like habits of mind that will be necessary to address the unsolved problems of the future. There are also many benefits of contributing to the University’s research mission, including the development of your creative abilities and confidence that you can undertake original work of significance to society. With your experience in undergraduate research, you will have significant advantages on your applications for graduate or professional programs.
6. Can I receive credit for my research? Can research be used to meet general education requirements?
There are many ways to receive course credit for both learning about research methods and doing research. You can enroll in an undergraduate research methods course in your department or others within your College, or you can enroll in a directed research project, where the credit can vary between 1-3 credit hours. If you are enrolled in the Emerging Scholars Program, you will receive course credit for two semesters of your work. Ask your faculty advisor about courses in your department that are required for your major that have a strong research component to them.
7. Do I have to do research within my major?
Absolutely not! Students are not limited to pursuing projects within their declared major, but they are encouraged to pursue interdisciplinary projects that span a variety of disciplines and departments. If you search the Faculty Research Database (future link to come), you’ll see that you have faculty members doing research in almost every department or College across campus.
8. Who can I contact in my major department in order to learn more about undergraduate research opportunities?
Many of the departments or Colleges have a Director of Undergraduate Research or a Director of Undergraduate Studies, who can answer your question or direct you to another person in the department who can help you. If you do not know whom to contact within your department or college, contact the Director of Undergraduate Research, Dr. Kim Bissell at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Program Specialist for Undergraduate Research, Jackie Harrison at email@example.com.
9. How can I showcase the research that I do?
The University of Alabama hosts its under Undergraduate Research & Creative Activity Conference (http://urca.ua.edu), and the Office for Research and Economic Development publishes a research magazine (http://research.ua.edu/) , which showcases and highlights excellence in research by students and faculty. The Journal of Science and Health is published by undergraduate students at the University of Alabama (http://undergraduateresearch.as.ua.edu/presenting-your-work/joshua/), and publishes the work of undergraduate researchers in biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and mathematics. Students also have opportunities to submit their research to regional and national conferences within their respective disciplines. Ask your faculty mentor or research advisor about these conference opportunities.
10. How can the Office for Undergraduate Research help me and where is it located?
The programs and resources at the OUR can help to empower all undergraduate researchers at the Capstone in order to engage in undergraduate research during your academic career. We look forward to helping you pursue topics of your intellectual and creative interests, and we look forward to finding venues to showcase your research findings. The Director of Undergraduate Research and the Director of the Emerging Scholars Program is Dr. Kim Bissell, and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Office is located in 313 Lloyd Hall along the University’s Quad.