Types of Undergraduate Research

There are many avenues through which to pursue scholarly undergraduate research at The University of Chicago. Research experiences vary among disciplines; do not assume that because you are not in the STEM fields, that research is not an option.  Research occurs in the fine and performing arts (often through performative, design, curatorial, or exhibition experiences), the humanities, and the social sciences. Below are the most common types of undergraduate research experiences:

Undergraduate Research Assistantships
A research assistantship is an experience undertaken under the direct supervision of a faculty or other research mentor. These types of opportunities involve working alongside research mentors on a larger project or on a specific portion of their efforts that affords you both experience and the tools necessary to develop as an undergraduate researcher. While each opportunity comes with its own expectations, these can be great opportunities for students to get their first exposure to research. For more advanced students, assistantships allow for their continued development as researchers, particularly if the research can be continued over multiple summer or quarters. The longer you engage with a single research experience, the more likely you will be in a position to publish or present your work. Do not collect research experiences for the sake of padding your resume. You will get the most out of research if you commit significant time to the effort.  When searching for a research assistantship or research associate opportunity, start with your own faculty (full, associates, lecturers), visiting faculty, fellows and graduate students. If you have never contacted faculty or research investigators before, review our guidance for how to seek out opportunities and effectively reach out to those with whom you would like to work. 

There are many research opportunities at UChicago, including at the various research institutes, the UChicago Medical Center and centers across campus such as CPOST, the Urban Crime Labs, and the Oriental Institute. Students can also find research opportunities at affiliated national labs such Argonne National Lab, Fermilab, the Marine Biological Laboratory and places like the Logan Center for the Arts and the Smart Museum. You can find a comprehensive list of the primary research institutes at UChicago here as a place to start.

Domestic Research Programs 
There are formal programs at UChicago and around the US that offer formal, structured research opportunities for undergraduates in a variety of fields. They are usually offered on an annual basis, with pre-set start- and end-times, and require formal applications with strict deadlines. Structured research programs often include various forms of support (e.g.. stipends, accommodation, etc.) as well as opportunities for community-building and intellectual growth. For example, at UChicago you can apply for the Center for Global Health Summer Research Fellows program or the Beckman Scholars Program and nationally you might consider opportunities like the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates Program (REUs) or the Amgen Scholars Program.  But, these are just examples. You should also consult faculty and the directors of undergraduate studies in your department to find out what other opportunities may exist. For a more expansive list, visit our 'US Research Opportunities' page.

International Research Opportunities and Programs 
Students at UChicago leverage resources like the Summer International Travel Grants (SITGs) through the Study Abroad office to support independent, self-designed research abroad. Often this is attached to their thesis research, or it might be to undertake research in an international lab environment. Regardless, to be successful, a student must develop a strong plan, research proposal and application.  Students also reach out directly to international research groups, universities, labs or research institutes and simply ask if joining their efforts as an undergraduate researcher might be possible over the course of a summer.  It is then the student’s responsibility to secure funding to support that effort. A few examples of more formal undergraduate research programs are the DAAD RISE programs, an international scholarship program offers summer research experiences in Germany for STEM students and research included as an integral part of the School of International Studies (SIT) programs around the world. You can find more international research opportunities listed here

BA Thesis Research 
Each department and major has its own requirements for thesis research, including topics allowed, prerequisites, timing, and the faculty who can supervise your work. If you intend or are required to undertake thesis research, connect with the director of undergraduate studies in your department to find out more about expectations. If your thesis research requires field-work or preliminary data gathering, consider applying for Summer International Travel Grant (SITG) to support summer research experiences abroad. Departments also have thesis research funding options and you are encouraged to check our UChicago research opportunities listed here and speak with your department. Note: Graduate schools often require writing samples at the time of application. If you intend to use part(s) of your thesis as a writing sample, check your graduate school application deadlines to ensure you know what might be expected of you and when.

Independent Research, directed by faculty
College students can arrange with faculty 'Reading and Research' (R & R) courses if they would like to receive credit for independent research.  This research must be directed by faculty and extend the students' learning beyond the scope of a traditional course and course-essay. For complete details about R & R courses, refer to the College academics page.

Activities that are NOT undergraduate research: professional internships, externships, job shadowing, career treks, student activites, course practicums, long-essays produced for courses, independent study undertaken without the direct supervision of a faculty research mentor, or adminstrative employment positions for departments, faculty, or labs.