Undergraduate researcher, Tyler Gunn with faculty mentor, Dr Thomas Peter.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: How soon should I start thinking about research?
A: It is never to early to start thinking about research. There are research opportunities for all undergraduates.
Q: When can I start undergraduate research?
A: It is possible to get involved in research in almost any phase of your academic career—it’s never too late! That said, getting involved earlier rather than later will give you a chance to develop a lasting relationship with your mentor, and will allow you more time to take advantage of as many research experiences as possible during your time here. The best way to get started is to attend a “Getting Involved” session presented by the ICRU Research Ambassadors. Check the ICRU homepage for the next session.
Q: I want to get involved in undergraduate research, how do I start?
A: Before beginning your search for a mentor, you should ask yourself some questions to identify the area you’d like to work in. Consider why you’d like to get involved in research, what you hope to gain from that involvement, and perhaps most importantly, what you are interested in researching. These questions should help narrow your thought process and lead you to a departmental website in the area that interests you.
Q: Where can I find undergraduate research positions on campus?
A: Opportunities for research are available in virtually every department on campus. Research is not limited to scientific fields—exciting research happens every day in the arts and humanities as well. Check the ICRU website for job postings, Jobnet, and ask around.
Q: How do I find a mentor?
A: The best place to start your search for a mentor is on a departmental website. Every department features a page detailing each faculty member, along with their backgrounds and current research projects. Browse through these pages, and familiarize yourself with the work of a faculty member that sparks your interest. Send a professional email to the potential mentors who you might like to work with, recognizing your familiarity with their work and asking if there are any opportunities available to assist them in their research.
Q: Can you do research with a professor you haven’t had in class?
A: Absolutely! Even if you are not interested in doing research with a professor who you have had for a class, you can get involved in projects under the mentorship of another professor from your academic department, or a faculty member completely outside your own major. Since research and original investigation is key aspect of every faculty member's job description at the University of Iowa, there are hundreds of projects being conducted by researchers who may benefit from the help of a research assistant. If the faculty member is not your classroom professor, but you are interested in the work that he or she is doing, you can send an email expressing your interest to set up an appointment. Treat this appointment the same way you would a job interview- look sharp, come prepared (with knowledge of their work), and make a good impression.
Q: How hard is it to do research, with a faculty?
A: Working with faculty is not hard to do. Students who personally introduce themselves to the faculty, visit their office hours and inquire about their area of study are usually the most successful in connecting with faculty on their research.
Q: I’m having trouble finding a mentor, can you offer me some advice?
A: If the first potential mentor you email doesn’t offer you a position, don’t give up and don’t take it personally! It is worth asking the faculty member if they are aware of anyone else in their department who may need assistance. Also, asking other students in your department (especially upperclassmen) if they have any suggestions to offer based on their experiences with faculty members is a great idea. Be persistent in your search, and you will be able to get involved in research as an undergraduate. It is also worth considering a field other than your major, or beyond your “first choice.” Experiences in other departments can spark interests you didn’t realize you had and offer great opportunities you might otherwise miss. Keep an open mind!
Q: What will my research project look like? What will I do?
A: The answers to these questions depend largely on what specific department your research is based in. Current undergraduate students involved in research work everywhere from labs, to nursing homes, to correctional facilities. Research could take you to any of these places! Your mentor will direct the nature of your research, which might mean carrying out lab experiments, compiling data, or transcribing interviews with research subjects. It is likely that your work will be presented in poster form at one of ICRU’s undergraduate research festivals, where you will have a chance to share your work and conclusions with other students and faculty from many departments.
Q: Where can I learn more?
A:If you are interested in research, talk to your academic advisor, your departmental honors advisor, and/or the staff at the University Honors Program. These advisors can inform you about resources to help students get involved in research. If you are in a program that fosters your interest in the sciences, such as Women in Science and Engineering or the Iowa Biosciences Advantage program, use whatever assistance is available to you. And most importantly, be persistent - persistence is essential in research and may be just as important during the process of searching for the right research opportunity.
Q: How can I get paid for conducting my research?
A: There are several ways that you can obtain monetary compensation for your time spent in research. The primary means offered through ICRU is the ICRU Fellow Program, offered for the summer term ($2500 stipend) or the fall and spring semesters ($1250/semester, $2500/academic year). Your mentor will complete the application for this award once you establish how you will assist them in research. Also, it is possible to find some positions (primarily in the medical and science fields) on Jobnet, which outline the hourly pay offered to an undergraduate seeking employment as a research assistant. Additionally, if you are an under-represented minority student interested in pursuing research as a career and obtaining your PhD in the biomedical sciences, you can check out the Iowa Biosciences Advantage (IBA) which can also get you connected with financial compensation for your time. Additional external funding options are occasionally available through grants and other outside sources, which are highlighted on the ICRU website.
Q: I’m presenting at a conference, do you offer travel money?
A: If your research involves travel abroad, you may apply for the Stanley Undergraduate Award for International Research. These stipends range from $1000-$3000 and are offered to students in good academic standing. ICRU also offers travel awards for presentation at a conference. These awards are up to $500. (Students must be presenting to receive the award.)
Q: How do I become an ICRU Fellow?
A: Over 150 awards are given to undergraduates who are doing research under faculty mentorship. It is actually the mentor who completes the application online and submits a 1-page proposal indicating the student's project and the responsibilities specific to the student. As you can see on our application webpage, the proposal asks the faculty member to describe their area of work, the student's involvement, how the student will benefit from the experience, and a timeline for the project. Because the selection committee is comprised of faculty members from many UI departments, it is important that your mentor tailor the wording of the proposal, keeping in mind that the readers may not be familiar with the specific jargon from your area of research. Once the committee reviews your application, you will be informed if your project has been accepted for funding from ICRU.
Q: How can I apply for ICRU Fellow Program?
A: First of all, the mentor applies for the ICRU funding. You can help your mentor by taking note of the following items: Check the date and make sure you don’t miss the deadline. Work on your application and revisions with an advisor to assure that you have a strong application.Guide the Faculty member to the ICRU site and offer to help work on the proposal.
Q: Can I get credit for doing research?
A: Your research involvement can earn you credits toward graduation. Registration for a research course can also make your experience a more visible part of your academic record. In addition, credit hours earned through research may also be part of a department's requirements for Graduation with Honors. Course options for research can be found in most departments and are also available through the University Honors Program (143:100 Honors Research Practicum). Research registrations are generally variable credit courses (1-3 s.h.) that can be repeated. You and your faculty mentor will determine how many credit hours you should register for based on how much time you spend on the project each week; you can continue to do this for several semesters. A rule of thumb for determining credit hours in research courses is 1 credit hour for each 3 hours of work per week. For example, for a 3 credit hour research course registration, you are expected to work 9-10 hours per week on the project. Research courses are generally graded on a Satisfactory/Fail basis. You may not receive credit hours and be paid for the same research experience.
Q: How do I register my research as an internship?
A: The Pomeranz Career Center is the best place to learn about registering an internship.