How to Get Started in Research


  • Determine how much time each week, and when, you can give to research work. Can you offer more time during the summer or in January?
  • Consider areas of study that interest you. Conduct a brief literature review using UMBC library resources – a librarian can help you. Learn something about current activities in your field.

Identify Opportunities / Potential Mentors:

  • Look at the department web pages. In some departments faculty post the projects for which they need undergraduate assistants. Identify projects you would like to work on or faculty you would like to work with, even if undergraduate research positions are not specifically mentioned.
  • Review campus research programs.
  • Speak with advisor and your current professors.
  • Talk with your peers or teaching assistants about which faculty members are good mentors.
  • Find out who mentored earlier undergraduate researchers in your area by reading research abstracts. pdf icon
  • Look beyond the UMBC campus. Artists throughout the area may accept apprentices. Researchers at other area institutions often need students. Look at faculty web pages at University of Maryland, Baltimore medical, dental, nursing and pharmacy schools.
  • Explore links to other science and non-science research leads.

Reach Out:

  • Identify three to five potential mentors. Speak to faculty members after class or during office hours to request an appointment to discuss research.
  • Be prepared to e-mail or bring in person your current transcript (unofficial) and a resume. The Career Center can help you to create a good resume.
  • You may ask to join the faculty member’s ongoing work as an assistant or for mentoring in a creative or research project of your own design. If you have a specific project in mind, a mentor can help you fine tune your plans and get started.
  • Potential mentors may be approached at any time of year, but always two to three months in advance of the time you would like to begin working.
  • If you can start by offering larger blocks of time during summer or winter break, this can be attractive. You can then receive necessary training in a short time and be ready to work more independently when classes start again.
  • Many summer research application deadlines are in February. Look at the offerings through the fall. A successful application process usually starts in November.
  • Contact the Shriver Center for internship opportunities.

Once you start a research project:

If you need more help getting started, try the Web Guide to Research for Undergraduates (WebGURU)