More than 33% of College of Engineering undergraduates participate in research in some form. All students are encouraged to conduct research as an undergraduate.  Students can participate in research at any point in their academic program.  You do not need to be an upperclassman to conduct research.

Undergraduate research is a great way to explore new interests, translate what you are learning in the classroom into a real-world situation, work closely with a faculty mentor in his/her research group, and gain important skills for use in the future.

FAQs

Undergraduate research experience will:

  • Enhance your problem-definition, problem-solving, and analytical skills
  • Provide active, hands-on learning, through which you can experience the application of the abstract concepts covered in your engineering courses
  • Prepare you for a rewarding career in academia or industry
  • Help you develop the skills critical to effective teamwork
  • Provide access to mentoring relationships and supportive professional networks
First, you need to think about your interests.  Is there a specific topic or area you would like to research or are you open to suggestions?  Once you have an idea on what you’d like to do, you will need to find a faculty member to serve as your faculty mentor for your research experience.
The best way to find a faculty mentor is to become familiar with faculty in your department and their research interests. Most have detailed information on their faculty webpage including a research site.  Talk to other students who have participated in research to learn about their experience with this person.  Once you have an idea about who you might work with, contact them to find out if they have openings in their lab.  If yes, set up an appointment to discuss available projects and expectations of the faculty mentor.
Do your homework.  Find out as much as possible about a faculty mentor before accepting a position.  During your initial meeting, the faculty is interviewing you, but you are also interviewing the faculty mentor.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Talk to current lab members about their experience because you will be working with them as well as the faculty mentor. Seek feedback from past lab members, too.  Most will be honest with you about their experience.
  • Your mentor expects that you will be as committed to your research experience as you are any of your classes. You should expect to commit 10 hours per week to your research experience during the academic year and more if you continue during the summer.
  • You are now a member of your faculty mentor’s research group. You will work with senior researchers including post-doctoral scholars, research scientists, and graduate students, but you may also work with other undergraduates. You are a contributing member of this team.
  • You are welcome part of a research group.  Communication is key to the success of this team. Attend meetings with your mentor and the research group. Share your activities and results. Most of all, if you have questions, ask!  If you encounter a problem, let someone know immediately.
  • You are expected to follow all established laboratory procedures involving safety and research integrity.
Yes, it is possible to receive academic credit for undergraduate research. Speak with your faculty mentor regarding expectations (number of hours spent on research each week, preferred method of communication, meeting schedule, reporting activities and results, assessment and grading, etc.) to receive academic credit and how to register for the course.  In most cases, your academic advisor can assist you with registration.
Possibly.  Your faculty mentor may or may not have grant funding to pay you a stipend for your work.
Yes!  There are a number of opportunities available presenting your research, both on-campus and off-campus.  Check with your research mentor on the best forum for your particular work. Most professional societies host undergraduate research sessions at their annual meetings.  In addition, other opportunities include the following:

  • Showcase of Undergraduate Scholars

    http://www.uky.edu/chellgren/undergraduate-research/showcase-undergraduate-scholars

    This event gives undergraduate students from across the University of Kentucky a forum to present their research to the university community and general public. The date for the 2018 showcase is Wednesday, April 25.  For more information, visit the Showcase website.

  • Posters at the Capitol

    http://www.uky.edu/chellgren/undergraduate-research/posters

    This annual event is held at the state capitol in Frankfort.  Undergraduate students from the eight state-supported universities present their research to state legislators with the aim of increasing an understanding of the important role of undergraduate research in the Commonwealth.  The date for the 2018 event is Thursday, March 8.  Detailed information may be found at the Posters website.

  • National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR)

    http://www.uky.edu/chellgren/undergraduate-research/NCUR

    This is the annual conference dedicated specifically to promote and celebrate undergraduate research.  It is held at a different university each year.  The University of Kentucky hosted NCUR in 2014.  The University of Central Oklahoma will host the 2018 conference April 4-7, 2018.  For additional information including deadline dates and poster submission information, visit the NCUR website.

Yes.  These programs are called different names depending on the funding agency.  At the National Science Foundation (NSF), these programs are called Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs). NSF funds a large number of REU programs at universities across the United States.  These ten-week programs usually consist of 10 undergraduate students at each site with each student assigned to a specific research project, faculty mentor, and laboratory.  Students also participate in professional development and social activities.  Participating students receive a stipend and usually receive lodging and help with travel expenses. REUs are in any number of areas with many in science and engineering from nanobiotechnology to renewable energy to aerospace engineering. Each site has a specific application deadline usually in January or February of each year.  Applications include letters of recommendation.

To search all NSF REU sites, visit: https://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/reu_search.jsp

To search engineering specific NSF REU sites, visit: https://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/list_result.jsp?unitid=10006&d-49653-p=1

Additional Resources