Research Opportunities

Undergraduate research is an important element of our philosophy in developing students to think and work as chemists or biochemists. Working in a research lab allows students to more fully understand the nature of scientific discovery and the scientific process. It also helps students clarify career interests, improve communication and problem-solving skills, and learn about cutting-edge research. These skills are valuable no matter what ultimate career path a student takes. Typically, our students start research at the beginning of their sophomore year, and approximately 75% of our majors participate. Our undergraduate researchers commonly receive co-authorship on scholarly publications and present their work at national and international conferences.

Getting Started in Research

Start by reviewing the faculty webpages to discover the variety of research being conducted at Notre Dame. Then select two or three faculty members whose research is of interest to you, and contact the faculty members directly to request an appointment to discuss the possibility of working in their labs. Also, read through theĀ undergraduate research FAQs. If you have other questions about undergraduate research, you can contact Dr. Steve Wietstock, Undergraduate Research Coordinator, at or in his office, 331 Jordan Hall.

Once you have identified a faculty advisor who has agreed for you to work in their lab, submit this form to receive approval to register for undergraduate research. The form will need to be completed each semester you plan to participate in research.

Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Many students choose to conduct research over the summer, and there are myriad opportunities to do so, either at ND or elsewhere. On-campus funding sources for summer research include the College of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships, ND Nano, and the Glynn Family Honors Program. Applications for these programs are usually due prior to spring break each year through the Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE). One of the most popular summer programs for nation-wide undergraduate research opportunities is the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), but other programs provide funding for summer research at various locations across the nation as well.

Helpful Resources

FAQs for those interested in undergraduate research

  1. Who can do research in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry?
  2. When is the best time to do undergraduate research?
  3. How many hours per week is required for research?
  4. How do I find a research project/mentor?
  5. What do I do once I have identified a research mentor?
  6. Can I get paid to do undergraduate research?
  7. Should I spend my summers working in a lab at Notre Dame or look elsewhere for summer research opportunities?
Who can do research in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry?

Anyone. You do not need to be a chemistry or biochemistry major. Likewise, chemistry and biochemistry majors can look for opportunities of interest outside of their home department.

When is the best time to do undergraduate research?

It takes time for a student to become productive in the lab, so many research advisors prefer to recruit students earlier in their time at ND. At the same time, it is good for students to adjust to the demands of college before taking on the additional workload and challenges of a research position. Plus, some faculty members want to see that students have completed at least one or two semesters of college level chemistry before joining their lab. Therefore, most students begin research positions their sophomore year. Ambitious students can begin talking to professors anytime. It is possible you may actually be able to start in a lab during your freshman year or at least have a secured position for your sophomore fall semester. 

How many hours per week is required for research?

Undergraduate research is a variable credit course. The rule of thumb is 1 credit corresponds to roughly 4-5 hrs/week; 2 credits 8-10 hrs/week. For your first semester in a lab, 1 credit is usually appropriate. After that, most students will do 2 credits per semester. More than 2 credits per semester is only approved under special circumstances (ex., 3 credits for a senior with a light course load might be appropriate). You and your research advisor must agree upon the number of credits at the start of the semester. Most labs are quite flexible about when this work takes place, and your time should be scheduled in large enough blocks of time to actually complete some lab work while you are there. The schedule of the graduate student or post-doc with whom you are working will also need to be considered when planning your work schedule.

How do I find a research project/mentor?

Start by looking through our faculty webpages. The faculty can be sorted by division (Biochemistry, Inorganic, Organic, Physical/Analytical) and/or research specialty (Energy, Life Processes, Materials, Measurement, Medicine, Synthesis, Theory). You can also look at faculty in other departments to see if their research matches your interests. Students often look at faculty in Engineering, the Radiation Laboratory, Biology, Physics, and Math/ACMS. Select 4-5 faculty members whose work interests you, and then contact them to request a meeting. Face to face meetings are more effective than emails. Prepare for the meeting by looking over their research group website and a few of the publications listed there. Bring along a copy of your resume, and take notes. Ask what kinds of projects undergraduates have been assigned in the past, what potential projects you might have, who would work with you as you learn the ropes, and how many hours you would be expected to work.

What do I do once I have identified a research mentor?

Complete and return the application for undergraduate research. Applications are availble from Dr. Goodenough or Dr. Wietstock. You will need to complete safety training before beginning work in the lab. Once the departmental approval is entered into the system, you will be able to register. Remember to select the agreed upon number of credits from the drop-down menu. If you don't complete this last step, you may end up without any credits for your research that semester.

Can I get paid to do undergraduate research?

During the semester, research is usually done for credit. However, during the summer, research is typically a paid position. There are a number of ways in which you can secure funding for the summer: fellowships, internships, REU programs, or directly from your mentor's grant. Your chances of getting a paid position are always better if you have some existing research experience.

Should I spend my summers working in a lab at Notre Dame or look elsewhere for summer research opportunities?

There are benefits to each option. It can be difficult to be highly productive in research during the semester, so students who stay over the summer are often able to make great progress that would lead to publication. On the flip side, research programs and internships done elsewhere allow you the opportunity to see and experience different areas of science and potential career paths and broaden your network. You should pursue those summer opportunitites that are most appealing to you.


Steve Wietstock
Undergraduate Research Coordinator, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
331 Jordan Hall
(574) 631-2302

Xuemin (Sheryl) Lu
Undergraduate Research Coordinator
College of Science
(574) 631-1572