MIE Undergraduate Student Research
Why should I participate in undergraduate research?
- Undergraduate research exposes you to the academic sciences. Through research you better understand the relevance of your coursework and realize how many unanswered questions exist just past those sentences in your textbook. Further, these research experiences give you a good indication to whether you will be happy pursuing an advanced degree in your field (MS, PhD) or joining up with an R&D company in industry.
Are there undergraduate research opportunities in MIE?
- Many. We have over 60 faculty, most of which conduct high level research in their field of study.
What are the ways to get involved in research?
- You can either work in a lab with the direction of a professor or you can work on your own independent research project.
How do I find a professor?
- Step 1. Start by uploading your profile to the Apply for MIE Undergraduate Research Opportunities website so that all MIE professors can see that you are seeking research opportunities.
- Step 2. Check out the available undergraduate research jobs actively needing to be filled by MIE faculty.
- Step 3. If you don’t see any jobs, don’t get discouraged. They always exist. Almost all MIE professors are engaged in high-level research. If you have a professor you enjoyed taking a class with, that’s a great place to start. Or, explore the MIE faculty directory to view faculty profiles and research labs as well as MIE research areas and centers to find a professor that works on a topic that intrigues you. Once you identify one or two professors with whom you would like to work, send them an e-mail directly. Your email should be clear, brief, and state up front your aim to conduct undergraduate research in their lab (example is below). Offer to come in and chat with them. If you are willing to volunteer or research for credit, your research is no longer contingent on funding sources and your response might be more favorable. If you have an idea of your interest but can’t find a good match, e-mail Randall Erb.
View other student research opportunities such as the annual engineering undergraduate research fair that occurs every Fall.
Example of email to send to a professor inquiring about research
What sort of time commitment is required to work in a lab?
- Most professors would be willing to take on a capable student in their lab if the student is willing to put in a minimum of 10 hours of work per week. This includes volunteers. Smaller commitments don’t usually justify the training time and effort. Research is a commitment.
For a 10+ hour time commitment, what opportunities are there?
There are three main options to work in a lab. There are the following options:
- Option 1: Volunteer in a Lab. Most professors would be willing to take on a capable volunteer in their lab if the volunteer is willing to put in a minimum of 10 hours of work per week. Smaller commitments don’t usually justify the training time and effort. Research is a commitment even as a volunteer.
- Option 2: Research for credit. A great option for both the student and the professor is for you to research for credit. You can take a 4 credit hour course called “Research” (e.g. ME-4991) and get a grade for your effort. The topic of this research can be mutually agreed on between you and the professor. The professor just needs to offer this course and then you need to enroll in it. Check with your academic advisers to see if this works with your schedule. If you are worried about overloading, this is a great mechanism to still take a full load while researching.
- Option 3: Research for pay. A possible option is to do a research project and get paid an hourly rate or make a stipend. The professor that sponsors you will need to be able to pay for your efforts from his/her grants or other funding mechanisms. Though this is less common, it still occurs frequently. To further encourage this option, the MIE department has introduced the MIE Undergraduate Research Fellows Program in which the MIE department matches the professors funds up to $1500 to support you doing a project. This is a great option if your targeted lab has no extra funds for a hire at the moment. Keep in mind that these opportunities are targeted more toward your intellectual and experiential growth and less toward your financial growth.
How can I get money for my own project idea?
- If you have a clear research idea with which you wish to remain completely independent, check out the Provost Undergraduate Research Awards. This will give you $500 to $1000 to get you started. You can also partner with a professor for guidance. Aim for presenting your work at the RISE conference or a similar technical meeting.
What should the goal of my research be?
- The goal of your research should be to make an impact in your field of study. Your work is more impactful if you are able to somehow disseminate your results whether through a scientific publication or a conference presentation. Northeastern University hosts an annual conference on student research called RISE. Setting yourself a goal to present a poster on the results of your research project is an excellent idea. Aiming for a publication is even better.
I’m actually a MIE professor, how do I participate in undergraduate research?
- MIE Professors should refer to the supporting undergraduate research page to learn how to post research opportunities in the MIE Airtable Database.