Undergraduate Research is an important element of our philosophy in developing students to think and work as chemists or biochemists. The skills acquired are transferable to all career paths, not just research. Typically students start research at the beginning of their sophomore year, and approximately 75% of our majors take advantage of the opportunity to perform research in faculty labs. Our undergraduate researchers commonly receive coauthorship 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 work going on at Notre Dame. Pick two or three faculty that are of interest to you and contact the faculty member directly to schedule an appointment to discuss the possibility of working in their lab. Also, read through the undergraduate research FAQs, found here.
If you have other questions about undergraduate research, you can contact Dr. DeeAnne Goodenough-Lashua, Undergraduate Research Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at her office, 236 Jordan Hall.
Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunities
On-campus funding sources include the College of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships, the ND Nano program, and the Glynn Honors Program. Applications for these programs are usually due prior to spring break each year through the Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE).There are a number of opportunities for students to become involved in undergraduate research both on-campus and off-campus.
In addition to on-campus opportunities, there are numerous summer programs available to students off campus. The National Science Foundation sponsors the Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) program at a number of sites each year. A current listing of opportunities will be posted on this site as we receive them.
Who can do research in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry?
Anyone. You do not even need to be a chem or biochem 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 lab, so many research advisors prefer to recruit younger students rather than upperclass students. 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 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 doing research 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 the fall semester.
How many hours per week does research take?
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. 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 (for example, 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 over the faculty pages on the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry website. The faculty are marked with division (Biochemistry, Inorganic, Organic, Physical/Analytical) and 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 interest. Students often look at faculty in Engineering, the Radiation Laboratory, Biology, Physics, and Math/ACMS. Choose 4-5 faculty whose work interests you, and then talk to them. Face to face meetings are more effective than emails. Prepare for the meeting by looking over their research group website and potentially even looking at some 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. 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 typically is a paid position. There are a number of ways in which you can secure funding for the summer months: 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 pros and cons to each option. It is difficult to be productive in research during the semester, so students who stay over the summer can 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.
- How to Find an Undergraduate Research Position
- Research Opportunities
- Research Videos
Dominic Chaloner, Ph.D.
Undergraduate Research Coordinator
College of Science