How to Get Involved in Undergraduate Research

By Sarah Bransley


The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is well-known for being a world leader in research. Many students attend UIUC just for the chance to become a part of a research team both as grad students and undergrads. For undergrads, the Office of Undergraduate Research was created to help facilitate such research opportunities.

If you are interested in participating in research as an undergrad, you should first investigate the current research occurring on campus in your field. This is as simple as doing an internet search on the UIUC website focusing on your field of interest. For the School of Integrative Biology, their website categorizes those in the process of research and their different interests. Many labs also have their own websites which includes current and past research conducted. It’s important to investigate labs that are testing hypotheses you find interesting, or your experience won’t be a positive one.

A second step is to talk to your TAs about their experience with research. Most are graduate students and many of them are conducting research while teaching. They are generally happy to talk about what they do! It’s an amazing feeling when you end up having a TA that works in a lab you’re interested in and can be extremely lucrative in the job hunt.

Another step in finding research is to investigate RSOs that help you find research opportunities specifically for your major. For example, Integrative Illini helps Integrative Biology majors find research opportunities. They help by explaining the process of finding a lab, teaching about the professional communication methods, and connecting undergrads with lab managers at special research meetings. Another great RSO is called Research as Students at Illinois. They perform many of the same functions that Integrative Illini does, but they focus on research in different fields instead of just one.

It may be assumed that if you transfer in as a junior or senior it is too late to try and work in research. It’s not! I am currently working at the Institute for Genomic Biology as an undergraduate researcher and was able to land my job through these methods. If you are serious about research, there are opportunities available to you.

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