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Undergraduate Research

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

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 of what you’d like to do, you will need to find a faculty member to serve as your mentor for your research experience.

The best way to find a faculty mentor is to become familiar with faculty members in your department and their research interests. At the bottom of this page is a list of faculty that are currently accepting undergraduates into their labs. If you click on their name, it will take you to the faculty website that includes information about their research. Also, you can 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 him/her to find out about openings in his/her lab. If they do, set up an appointment to discuss available projects and his/her expectations.

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 an important member of the 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, the 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. Some faculty mentors may want you to volunteer first or receive course credit before getting paid. If you do a great job, they may be willing to have you continue your research with pay.

Yes! There are a number of opportunities available for presenting your research, both on 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


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

  • Posters at the Capitol


    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)


    This is the annual conference dedicated specifically to promote and celebrate undergraduate research. It is held at a different university each year. For additional information including deadline dates and poster submission information, visit the NCUR website.

Yes. These programs have 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 10-week programs usually consist of 10-15 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. More information regarding NSF REU’s can be found at https://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/reu_search.jsp

Faculty and Staff Researchers Mentoring Undergraduates in their Research Programs

Here is a list of current faculty and research staff currently mentoring undergraduates in their research programs. This list is by no means exhaustive. If you have any questions, contact John Balk.

Robert Adams – Electrical and Computer Engineering
Akinbode Adedeji – Biosystems Engineering
Ramkumar Annamalai – Biomedical Engineering
Sean Bailey – Mechanical Engineering
John Balk – Materials Engineering
Matt Beck - Materials Engineering
Bradley Berron – Chemical Engineering
Dibaker Bhattacharyya – Chemical Engineering
Sebastian Bryson – Civil Engineering
Mei Chen – Civil Engineering
Zhi David Chen – Electrical and Computer Engineering
Aaron Cramer  Electrical and Computer Engineering
Henry Dietz – Electrical and Computer Engineering
Kevin Donohue – Electrical and Computer Engineering
Thomas Dziubla – Chemical Engineering
Gregory Erhardt – Civil Engineering
Isabel Escobar – Chemical Engineering
James Fox – Civil Engineering
Martha E. Grady – Mechanical Engineering
James Griffoen – Computer Science
Jeffrey Todd Hastings – Electrical and Computer Engineering
David Herrin – Mechanical Engineering
Zach Hilt – Chemical Engineering
Jesse Hoagg – Mechanical Engineering
Dan Ionel – Electrical and Computer Engineering
Hana Khamfroush – Computer Science
Barbara Knutson – Chemical Engineering
Alexandre Martin – Mechanical Engineering
Brian Noehren – Health Science
Lindell Ormsbee – Civil Engineering – www.uky.edu/WaterResources – www.uky.edu/superfund/
Kelly Pennell – Civil Engineering
Jonathan Pham – Chemical and Materials Engineering
David Pienkowski – Biomedical Engineering
Steve Rankin – Chemical Engineering
Mike Renfro – Mechanical Engineering
Michael Sama - Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering
Simone Silvestri – Computer Science
Suzanne Smith – Mechanical Engineering
Joshua Werner – Mining Engineering
Guoqiang Yu – Biomedical Engineering

Other Research Opportunities

The Kentucky-West Virginia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation

The Kentucky-West Virginia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (KY-WV LSAMP) is a consortium of colleges and universities working together to create, enhance, and expand programs designed to broaden participation and increase the quality and quantity of students from underrepresented populations who receive degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Program goals and activities focus on undergraduate research experiences.

Summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates

The REU program at the University of Kentucky provides a 10-week multidisciplinary summer research and education experience for rising junior and senior undergraduates in the area of Engineered Bioactive Interfaces and Devices.

Please consider the following REU programs: