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Undergraduate Research Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Qualifications

I am studying a field in the arts, humanities, and/or social sciences; can I pursue research?

Yes!  Research can happen not only in labs, but also in libraries, performance stages, art studios, community centers, or anywhere else in the world where you pursue your intellectual curiosity.  We encourage students working in the arts, humanities, and/or social sciences to apply for our various programs, and to attend our Conference for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) events.

I am a first-year undergraduate student; can I pursue research?

Yes!  There are several URH programs that are open to first-year undergraduate students, including the Triton Research & Experiential Learning Scholars (TRELS) program during the academic year and the summer and the Undergraduate Research Scholarships (URS) program during the summer.  You can learn more about the specific requirements from our Programs At-a-Glance guide here. Be sure to double check the requirements for each specific opportunity when applying.

I am a junior/senior student; can I pursue research?

Yes! All URH programs are open to juniors and seniors, and it is never too late to do research! If fact, some faculty prefer to work with students who have taken introductory courses.

I am a transfer student; can I pursue research?

Yes!  Generally, URH programs are open to all students regardless of transfer status.  We also offer the STARTneuro program, which is specifically geared toward incoming transfer students with an interest in neuroscience.  You can learn more about the specific requirements from our Programs At-a-Glance guide here. Be sure to double check the requirements for each specific opportunity when applying.

I am not a US citizen or permanent resident; can I pursue research?

Yes!  International students and undocumented students are important members of our research community.  There are several URH programs that are open to students regardless of citizenship status, including the Triton Research & Experiential Learning Scholars (TRELS) program, the Faculty Mentor Program (FMP), and UC Scholars.  You can learn more about the specific requirements from our Programs At-a-Glance guide here. Be sure to double check the requirements for each specific opportunity when applying.

Research Topics and Goals

Can I do research outside of my major?

Yes, absolutely.  Research is a way to continue expanding your intellectual horizons, whether within and/or beyond your major.  Research can also empower you to forge creative interdisciplinary connections between areas of study that might initially seem unrelated.

I am not sure about my long-term academic and professional goals; should I still consider research?

Research is a wonderful way to build your skills and gain exposure to new possibilities, especially if you are unsure about what you might like to pursue in the future.  While some students might know that they want to pursue graduate study or a specific career pathway, many students are still discovering their own passions and goals.  The Undergraduate Research Hub is here to serve all Tritons who are seeking research opportunities, regardless of future plans.

Multiple Research Programs

Can I apply to multiple research programs at the same time?

Yes.  We encourage you to simultaneously apply for as many research programs as you like, as long as you meet the eligibility requirements.  Generally, however, we only allow for students to participate in one program at a time.  This means that if you were to have multiple offers for concurrent research programs—for example, multiple offers for summer research funding—you will likely have to accept one offer and decline the others.

Can I participate in more than one program during my UC San Diego academic career?

Yes. While we generally only allow for students to participate in one program at a time, you can participate in many of our programs throughout your academic career at UC San Diego. We encourage it! For example, you can participate in TRELS during the academic year and then participate in one of our summer research programs during the summer. This is one example. There are many options for mixing and matching our programs throughout your time at UC San Diego.

Faculty Mentors

Do I need to identify a faculty mentor before applying to URH opportunities?

This depends upon the specific program to which you are applying.  Some programs require you to identify a mentor on your application, while other programs do not.  You can learn more about the specific requirements from our Programs At-a-Glance guide here. Be sure to double check the requirements for each specific opportunity when applying. Feel free to reach out the program coordinator(s) if you have any questions.

Who can serve as my faculty mentor for a research project?

In general, students participating in URH programs are expected to have a UC San Diego faculty member as their mentor.  This usually means someone with the word “Professor” in their title: “Teaching Professor,” “Assistant Professor,” “Associate Professor,” or “Professor.”  In some cases, graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, research scientists, or visiting lecturers may serve as your primary points of contact while pursuing your project, but you should still have an official faculty mentor of record.

How do I find a faculty mentor?

There are a variety of tools and strategies that you can employ to identify a faculty mentor.

Consider reaching out to professors who have taught you in courses connected to your areas of interest.  Talk to teaching assistants (TAs), instructional assistants (IAs), research assistants (RAs), or other people on campus who have shaped your intellectual life, and who might have contact with faculty members who serve as the principal investigator (PI) for a research group.  Search the course catalog and departmental websites for faculty members who teach courses that you hope to soon take.  Utilize the Research Experience & Applied Learning (REAL) Portal and/or the UCSD Profiles database to search for faculty members working in fields related to your interests.  If you are interested in pursuing research, but are having difficulty identifying a potential mentor, please reach out to the URH staff, and we will be happy to assist you in your search.

Once you have identified a possible mentor, reach out via email to formally introduce yourself, explain your research interests in relationship to their work, and request whether they would be willing to meet with you virtually or in-person to further discuss the possibility of serving as a mentor.  While faculty members are busy—and sometimes may seem intimidating to approach—most often they are truly excited to meet enthusiastic young scholars who share their intellectual interests.

Application

Will I need a letter of recommendation?

Some programs require a letter of recommendation, while others only ask for a potential mentor to complete a very brief statement of support form to endorse your application.  You can learn more about the specific requirements from our Programs At-a-Glance guide here. Be sure to double check the requirements for each specific opportunity when applying. Feel free to reach out the program coordinator(s) if you have any questions.

What makes a strong application for Undergraduate Research Hub opportunities?

While each program will have slightly different application requirements, overall a strong application will explain why you are a good fit for a particular program.  Ask yourself, “How are my goals aligned with the goals of this program?”  This helps to shift the focus away from conventional metrics of academic achievement (such as your transcript and GPA), and toward the unique scholarly passions and contributions that you can develop by participating in a specific program.

Where can I get help with drafting an application for various URH opportunities?

In addition to seeking feedback from mentors, consider visiting the Writing Hub at the Teaching + Learning Commons for feedback as you draft your applications.

Undergraduate Research Hub

UR Logo

Phone: (858) 534-1774
Email: ugresearch@ucsd.edu
Office Hours (Walk-In): Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. 
Office Hours (Virtual): Monday to Wednesday, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. (Zoom link)
Location: Student Center Building B, 1st Floor
Mailing Address: 9500 Gilman Drive, Mail Code 0311
La Jolla, CA 92093-0311

 

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