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Getting Started in Research

There are a huge variety of research programs available and each employs a different mechanism to get students involved. It is highly recommended that you follow the specific program's procedure for getting started and direct your questions about that process to the program administrator.

To comply with UA and CBC safety policies, all students working in labs must attend the Risk Management General Laboratory Chemical Hygiene Training (i.e., Lab Safety Training) course AND the Responsible Conduct in Research workshop prior to starting their lab work. Done through D2L.

Research for Credit

(Senior Thesis, Capstone, Honors Thesis,
Independent Study, or Directed Research)

The Senior Capstone in Chemistry and Biochemistry is designed to provide the student with laboratory research experience. Students in the Honors College can use the senior capstone thesis toward both the major requirements and for the required Honors Thesis. The senior capstone begins during a student’s penultimate semester and is usually comprised of focused research work, followed by a semester of further research and writing of the thesis. Check the Honors College’s web site for information regarding your thesis if you are an Honors student:

  • BIOC BS majors: A minimum of two semesters of laboratory work (including a minimum of 6 units total of BIOC 498/498H credit) is required.
  • CHEM BS majors may use 3-6 units of CHEM 498/498H credit toward major elective requirements, depending on catalog year.

Students are responsible for making their own arrangements with a faculty mentor with whom to conduct research and who will oversee writing of the thesis, referred to hereafter as the Research Faculty Mentor.

All Biochemistry majors and CBC students who are in the Honors College must do a thesis for their degree. Finding a project and a thesis (research) advisor is key. You should consider beginning this process at least 2 semesters prior to your planned start of the thesis so that faculty have sufficient time to plan for the numbers in their labs. For instance if starting your thesis in the fall, a year prior you should begin researching the choices, so that late in the fall or early in the spring semester you can interview. You will need time, after identifying your research director, to prepare your proposal for approval and enrollment.

It is ideal to begin research early in your academic career and seek to continue that work for your senior thesis. For the best chances of getting into your top lab choice, you may want to begin at least one full semester prior to the start of your thesis by enrolling in independent study or directed research. This way you can begin learning techniques and making a good impression on faculty.

1. Choose one or more broad areas in which you are interested. As an undergraduate it is important to maintain a broad perspective. Defining too narrow an area of research interest will considerably limit your options. For example, diabetes is relatively broad whereas finding someone who studies the effects of diabetes on the cardiovascular system would greatly restrict your possible choices.

If you are unsure how to proceed in selecting an area of interest, you should meet with your advisor who can provide some guidance.

2. Contact professors by emailing them, calling them on the phone, or visiting their office to arrange an appointment to discuss possible research opportunities in his/her group. If you do not get response within a week, you should contact your advisor for assistance to help 'grease the wheels'.

3. Meeting with professors to discuss your interests, courses, experience, possible projects, and time commitments.

4. Follow up. Approximately a week after you have finished your first round of talks, try to reduce your list to 2-3 choices. Make another appointment to speak to those faculty members. Indicate which projects interest you most.

5. Choose a project. A couple of days after you've completed your second round of talks, pick a faculty member and project. Make an appointment with that faculty member to close the deal. Be prepared to give your research director your schedule.

6. Enroll for credit.

Research as a Volunteer

Finding a project works the same way as explained above. However, you do not enroll for credit. If you will only be volunteering (not enrolled for credit) you should have a Volunteer Agreement Form on file with the Department (the most current form is available on the Undergraduate Studies Forms page).

Additional Funded Research Programs