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Research Opportunities

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One of the best ways to prepare for doing a thesis is to participate in research in a faculty member’s research lab. The Undergraduate Research Opportunities page provides information on exhibitions and symposia, grants, travel support, and research opportunity postings. The SHC Research page presents additional research opportunities, including SHC-funded grants. For additional information on funding, see the IST SHC Thesis Guide.

Students with further questions about working in research labs should check out the research lab FAQ:

“Labs” may look like offices with laptops and graduate students, or high tech spaces with 3-D screens on the walls, or one-way windowed areas where research participants engage in research tasks, or comfortable meeting rooms equipped with focus group and interview equipment. Faculty and their graduate and undergraduate research teams meet in these spaces to discuss new research ideas, train new students, and do the work of conducting research—whether that be writing surveys, running statistical analyses, determining coding schemes, programming applications, creating visualizations of data, or designing prototypes, among other activities.

An undergraduate student who wants to gain research skills should approach faculty members who are doing research of interest to the student. Write an email to the faculty member and attach your resume. Be sure to include any skills that may be of interest. In your email, consider mentioning one or more of the following ways to connect:

  • ask to observe weekly research meetings
  • offer to provide free services for the experience of being in a research lab
  • propose a topic related to the faculty member’s research, and request that the faculty member supervise research project credit for you

Be sure to discuss possibilities with your faculty honors adviser. Often advisers are willing to make an introduction via email.

To determine which faculty members to approach, check out what faculty members are doing. Navigate through the Faculty Research page. This page lists all the areas of research in which College of IST faculty participate. If any of these areas strikes you as interesting by their title, continue reading the general description of the work in that area. Read widely to get a feel for the sort of questions and problems on which our faculty members work. Once you’ve identified some areas of interest, investigate individual faculty members who are aligned with those areas of research, drilling down far enough to view their individual and/or research group websites.

Penn State’s Office of Undergraduate Education hosts the University’s Research Opportunities for Undergraduates site, where faculty can post undergraduate research opportunities. Although some College of IST students have found research opportunities through this avenue, most have made connections through their own (or their faculty honors adviser’s) introductions.