Conducting Research as an Undergraduate
LAS defines undergraduate research as mentored, self-directed work through which students explore a topic of interest and share the results of their work in accordance with disciplinary standards; therefore research projects may include a wide range of activities, including systematic inquiry and creative activity.* Depending on your project, your work as an Undergraduate Research Assistant could involve helping with lab work, literature reviews, experiments, fieldwork, archival searches, document review, mapping, statistics, and more. While conducting research, students can expect to meet consistently with their Faculty Mentor throughout the semester and to spend 6-10 hours per week working on their research project.
What's In It For You?
Doing research makes you better prepared for what happens in and out of the classroom. It gives you the opportunity to learn more - about yourself and the world - than you would in your normal coursework. In addition, studies show that when students conduct research, they:
- feel more confident about their ability to do research and think like a scholar
- develop strong working relationships with peers and professors
- develop their communication skills, including reading, writing, and presenting their findings
- gain clarity about post-college career plans
In addition, conducting research outside of the classroom strengthens your resume and record of achievements. These are valuable benefits, whether you are working now, plan to apply to graduate or professional school, or intend to work immediately after graduation.
Eligibility & Program Requirements
In order to participate in the LASURI program, a student must:
- be officially enrolled as a full-time student in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
- have completed at least 24 credit hours at UIC
- have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5
Because research projects vary widely in their scope, topic, and format, LASURI students will participate in a broad range of research activities. However, all LASURI participants must:
- establish a research partnership with a faculty mentor
- conduct research and submit a final product to their mentor
- present their research in a public forum
- submit an abstract to the LASURI Abstract Archive
- Search the online Undergraduate Research Experience website to find faculty mentors. To learn more about faculty members’ research projects, browse their Research Profiles. You can use the browse function at the top of the main page to confine your search to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences or search for specific faculty or researchers in specific departments. Academic advisors, Directors of Undergraduate Studies and your course instructors are also good sources of information about potential faculty mentors. You do not need to use the URE website to find your mentor if you've already made a connection with a faculty member.
- You may, but are not required to, attend a question and answer session (workshop) to discuss the application process and learn more more about what makes a successful application.
- When you fill out the form on the URE website, an email will automatically be sent to the faculty mentor with your information. If the faculty mentor is interested in working with you, an interview will help you and the faculty member decide if you are a good fit for one another. Meeting with the faculty member in advance is also an opportunity for you to find out more about the research project and the faculty member's expectations.
- Work with your Faculty Mentor to design an interesting and feasible project for you to complete as an undergraduate research assistant. A good strategy is to print a copy of the LASURI application (if the application period is open) or the list of the type of questions included on the LASURI application and take it with you to your meeting with the faculty member. Make sure you understand what work you will be doing, what the larger goals of the study are and how your research will fit into those goals. A student’s ability to describe his or her research project and explain its goals is an important part of the selection process. Some examples of prior LASURI project abstracts are available here.
- Clarify your Faculty Mentor's expectations of you. Your experience will be far more productive and enjoyable if you and your mentor both understand and agree to the parameters of the project before the work begins. Make sure you both have a clear idea of what work you will be doing, how many hours a week you will be working, and where you will present it at the end of the semester.
- Review the application instructions carefully throughout the process -- as you meet with your mentor and as you complete the application. Doing so will make the process smoother and more efficient.
- Complete the application by the posted deadline, and ask your Faculty Mentor to complete her/his part of the application. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to learn about, contact, and meet with various professors before the application due date.
- Although mentors from all colleges are welcome, preference is given to faculty having an affiliation with LAS. In addition, mentors who have agreed to work with more than one student will be asked to rank the students in order of preference; although more than one of these students may be funded, LASURI strives to reach as many faculty as possible. For the same reason, preference will be given to students who have not previously received LASURI funding.
If you are chosen to participate in LASURI, you should inform your Faculty Mentor and confirm a start date for your work the following fall. LASURI projects are intended to be carried out during the academic year (not during the summer).
Presenting Your Research
Once you have completed your research project, your final task is to present your work in a public forum and submit an abstract to LASURI. Students are expected to present at the UIC Student Research Forum. Students may also discuss their work at department colloquia, at national undergraduate research conferences, and at professional conferences. If you will be unable to present your work at the UIC Student Research Forum, permission from both your Faculty Mentor and the LASURI committee is needed to substitute an alternate venue.
FAQs - for students
Do I have to have research experience to participate?
Not at all! All full-time LAS undergraduates in good academic standing and who have earned at least 24 semester hours with a minimum 2.5 GPA are eligible to participate.
Is LASURI restricted to certain majors?
LASURI is open to any student whose major field of study is in the college of Liberal Arts and Sciences. We encourage students majoring in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences to participate in the program, and we understand that research is conducted differently across the disciplines. We welcome variety in LASURI participants' research endeavors!
How many times can I participate in the program?
We encourage you to continue your research partnership over several semesters. However, to serve the largest number of students as possible, LASURI funds are generally limited to one year. Students are not prohibited from applying for a second LASURI award, but we urge you to apply for other scholarships or register for course credit instead.
What if I want to work on my own project, rather than a faculty member's project?
The purpose of LASURI is to facilitate productive research partnerships between professors and undergraduates. Mentors and students are free to work together on any project they so wish, as long as the basic program requirements of active mentorship, research activity, and research presentation are met.
What if a faculty member has already agreed to work with me?
Lucky you! Proceed directly to the LASURI student application. Your faculty mentor does not have to be listed on the URE website.
How can I use my award funds?
Your award will be automatically applied to any outstanding balance on your student account and any remaining money will be released to you. A project research budget fund will be sent to your Faculty Mentor’s department to help cover the costs of the research project.
When will I receive my award funds?
Half of each semester's award will be released after the second week of the term; the other half will be released after the midpoint of the term.
Can faculty apply to work with multiple LASURI students, either on the same project or on multiple projects?
LASURI funds are limited and we try to include as many faculty as possible, which generally means that an individual faculty mentor is unlikely to receive multiple students at the same time. Faculty with multiple students under consideration are asked to rank the student projects in order of preference, and in most cases the top ranked project is the most likely to receive funding. When the applications are all exceptionally strong, the selection committee may fund a second student or recommend that a student be named an alternate. In a typical year, alternates end up receiving funding, even if only for one semester. Additionally, we select students for some other undergraduate awards, such as the Howard L. Kaufman Undergraduate Student Research Award, from the same pool, so a faculty member might have multiple student research assistants for this reason.
What does it mean that I have been named as an alternate?
LASURI funds are limited and we aren't able to fund every deserving applicant. However, a certain amount of flux creeps into our students' lives, for any number of reasons -- including graduating earlier than planned. Thus, funding may become available to support worthy applications that were not funded during the initial application review. The selection committee identifies and ranks alternates to be funded if another participant withdraws from LASURI. There is no guarantee that an alternate will be offered funding, but it remains a possibility, and being named an alternate should be seen as an acknowledgement of the research proposal's strength.
How can I learn more about the LASURI program?
Attend a question and answer session for an overview of the process and how to prepare an application, and get answers to any questions you may have. You may also email us at LASURI@uic.edu.