We are happy that you are considering participating in a research, scholarly, or other creative project. Conducting research as an undergraduate student allows you to better understand published works, learn to balance collaborative and individual work, determine an area of interest, and jump start your career as a researcher here at Cal State LA. As defined by the University of Oklahoma, undergraduate research and creative activities is "mentored intellectual engagement using established scholarly processes to make a meaningful contribution to a project, question, or problem where the outcomes are presented or performed with review, critique or judgement, and both the process and product are based upon disciplinary standards." A direct benefit of participating in undergraduate research begins in the classroom. When investigating any phenomenon in the classroom or in a discussion on a given topic in class, it is easier to understand and to form your own hypotheses if you have experienced the thought process involved in discovery that comes from conducting research.
There are a number of reasons to conduct undergraduate research, scholarly, and creative activities. Some students consider getting involved in research to explore a passion, gain in-depth experience in a field or discipline they are interested in, help define their career goals and direction, make professional connections, develop problem-solving skills, and/or gain real-world experience that helps their resume stand out when searching for employment opportunities.
Develop Your Thesis
The initial step in any research or creative project is to determine what interests you. While you may have many interests and, at first glance, you may feel they are disconnected from each other, do not worry. Think about what you would like to learn that will enhance your learning experience here at Cal State LA and that will prepare you in your future career.
Create some lists and write down areas that you would like to further explore. Write down potential resources or connections that you have. With this information now collected, compare your lists for intersections and overlaps and determine which connections you would like to pursue.
When you have a few ideas that you are excited about, it is now time to find other people who have similar ideas and interests, and to ask them what they know and what questions still need to be pursued in your field of interest. These people can include faculty you have taken in a class or those you have searched for on the Cal State LA website; students in your classes or in student groups who can also provide you direction as to which faculty to speak with about a particular research specialization; and/or people outside Cal State LA, including people at other institutions, industry, non-profits, museums, governmental, or non-governmental agencies.
Besides basic internet searches, other ways to develop your interests include the use of scholarly databases, journalistic sites, the library, and think tanks.
Developing an Idea - What Should I Research?
Start with what you like, what interests you, and what you would like to learn more about. Research offers the opportunity for you to explore something in depth in a way that is not easy through our semester system craziness.
How to Find a Faculty Mentor
It is important to be proactive in your search for the best faculty mentor to conduct research or a creative project with. There are many opportunities on the Cal State LA campus and there is no magic system to match students with faculty mentors. Approach this endeavor like your college search and find the best opportunity for you. Some good ways to find potential mentors include:
- Faculty websites that detail their research interests as well as provide publications and other pertinent information on their research programs.
- Talking to students currently conducting research with faculty.
- Reading scholarly work by faculty you may be interested in working with. Much of this work is easily accessible on-line via the library.
Steps on contacting a faculty member:
- Introduce yourself in a formally written e-mail that demonstrates your interest in the faculty member’s research.
- Attach your resume to your e-mail (or bring it with you if you plan to visit during his/her office hours).
- Ask for an appointment to discuss research opportunities in more detail.
Be prepared and professional when contacting and meeting with every faculty member. Your interactions with faculty members should be considered as important as a job interview. Read up on the faculty member’s website and several of their recent publications.
The following are a few of the questions that you should be prepared to answer when you meet with a faculty member:
- Why do you want to do research?
- Why are you interested in the faculty member’s research?
- What are your future educational or professional goals?
- How does research fit into your career goals?
- How much time do you have to devote to a research project(s)?
- Have you taken any courses relevant to the proposed research project(s)? If so, which one(s)?
You should also prepare a short list of questions to ask the faculty member, such as:
- What are some possible opportunities for undergraduates related to your scholarly work?
- How many undergraduate research projects have you mentored? What did these students do?
- What are your expectations for your students?
- How could I (the student) prepare for doing research under your auspices?
Thank the faculty member for taking the time to discuss research opportunities with you.
Selecting a Faculty Member
After you have completed meeting with one or more potential faculty members, it is now time to select the one who best fits with your research project and personal style. In general, choose a faculty mentor who:
- is engaged in a research topic that best fits with your interests;
- has a strong track-record of mentoring and publishing with undergraduate students like yourself;
- has a communication style with which you feel comfortable;
- is accessible;
- seems genuinely interested in you and your success at Cal State LA, and;
- has the space, equipment, and instrumentation needed for you to successfully complete your project.
Why Should You Get Involved in Research or Creative Activities?
By conducting undergraduate research you can:
- work with and learn from internationally known scholars.
- learn more about the newest technologies and methods in your field.
- get an early introduction to graduate-level study.
- develop a better and clearer understanding of current intellectual debates.
- build experience that is valuable to careers in business, education, and public service.
- share the excitement of discovering something new.
- build a lasting relationship with a faculty member(s) or research team.
Student Research Opportunities
The opportunity to engage in research at the undergraduate level is a longstanding tradition here at Cal State LA and is part of the student experience. Many faculty offer students the opportunity to participate in faculty-mentored research and there are also specific programs to support and mentor students in the research experience. The lists below are some current research, scholarship, and creative activity opportunities and programs provided by faculty available to students. There are others available through the university, college, and individual faculty members. If you do not see a program or opportunity that matches your specific interests, you can reach out to a faculty member for advice and opportunities.
Cal State LA Programs
The following links provide information on opportunities for students at Cal State LA:
Global and External Research Opportunities for Students
The following links provide information on external opportunities for students:
External Undergraduate Organization Supporting Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities
The following are links to several external undergraduate organizations supporting research:
- Southern California Conferences for Undergraduate Research
- Council on Undergraduate Research
- Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science
- American Indian Science and Engineering Society
- Ascend: Pan-Asian Leaders
- National Society of Black Engineers
Professor of Chemistry
Faculty Research Liaison
Annenberg Science Complex Wing B 122E