Is an Engineering Undergraduate Research Program Right for You?
Shane Laros posted on December 09, 2016 |

Is your thirst for engineering knowledge left unsatisfied by only attending lectures? Would some extra credit make your applications to grad school look a bit more appealing?

Perhaps the answer lies in pursuing an undergraduate research opportunity. Not only will you be able to contribute to your chosen discipline, but it never hurts to get some hands-on experience in your field of engineering.

Here are some tips to remember if you’re thinking about joining an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) available at many schools worldwide, courtesy of Georgia Tech.


Undergraduate research programs are a good way to get hands-on experience in your field, while contributing to original research and earning extra credit. (Image courtesy of Georgia Tech.)
Undergraduate research programs are a good way to get hands-on experience in your field, while contributing to original research and earning extra credit. (Image courtesy of Georgia Tech.)


Getting Started

Though you may be eager to dive in head-first, it’s a good idea to research the available opportunities early on. Giving yourself a semester to decide what it is you want to research and the opportunities available at your school will allow you to consider more choices, and to have time to contact the right faculty members.

Though it may seem obvious, it’s a good idea to see if your school offers a UROP, and get in contact with them early on. Your undergraduate coordinator can also help you choose an appropriate field of study, and can give you advice if one of your classes piques your interest more than others.


Contacting Faculty

One of the most straightforward ways to talk to faculty is to reach out to your current professors. Most will be happy to know you’re interested in research, and will have leads on potential projects in their department. Reading up on the particular professor’s own research can help as well.

If you are interested in looking outside of your major, your school’s website will be an invaluable source of information. With lists of faculty members and links to biographies and published works, you can see how their fields of study work with your own.

Be sure to include your name, year of study and major when contacting faculty. It also doesn’t hurt to communicate your interests and what about their research led you to them.


Register your Research

Once you’ve decided on a research project with a professor, you’ll need to ensure you get the appropriate credit for your work. Your research professor can help with this, and your UROP will have details on how many research hours are required for a credit. This should be done early on, before you get engrossed in the research itself.


Many schools offer research opportunities for undergraduates, which can lead to building new skills while working under faculty mentors. (Image courtesy of Boston University.)
Many schools offer research opportunities for undergraduates, which can lead to building new skills while working under faculty mentors. (Image courtesy of Boston University.)


If your school has a UROP program, be sure to attend any information sessions they have available. Not only will you see what would be expected of you in a research position, but meeting other interested students will help build a network of like-minded individuals.

It’s important to remember that your professor will be taking time to mentor you in your research, which may be cutting into the time spent on their own projects and publications. However, if you work hard and contribute, you could see your name listed in a professional publication before you graduate.

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