Faculty Information on Supporting MIE Undergraduate Research
Prof. Randy Erb is the faculty representative for enabling Undergraduate Research within the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department at Northeastern University. Feel free to contact him directly with questions about undergraduate research at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Refer to the MIE Department Airtable Database for posting research opportunities and seeing potential student candidates.
Contact email@example.com for a link to post a job or view current student applicants (restricted to Northeastern faculty and staff).
How to Bring Undergraduate Students Into Your Lab
If you are an MIE faculty member interested in bringing undergraduate students into your lab, read this conversation:
MIE Prof: Are there MIE undergraduates that want to research?
Randy: Tons. They are trying to figure out how to get in touch with you.
MIE Prof: Do I need money to bring undergraduates into my lab?
Randy: Not at all. Having a grant or discretionary funds lets you pay them directly, but there are many other mechanisms to bring them in.
MIE Prof: OK, what mechanisms are there to bring undergraduate students into my lab?
Randy: There are many options that are win/win for you and the student:
Option 1: Hire undergraduates with grant or discretionary funds. The top undergraduate students will compete for a rewarding research experience that comes with a pay check. If you have funds, you can set up with Joyce to pay a student at an hourly rate (e.g. $13/hr) or as a stipend (e.g. $130/week). To further encourage this option, the MIE department has introduced the MIE Undergraduate Research Fellows Program in which the department will match your funds up to $1500. This is a competitive program, that requires the students and you writing a half page proposal. Contact me for more details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Option 2: Let undergraduates research for credit. A great option for both the student and the professor is to research for credit. This is free for you and the student enrolls in a 4 credit hour course called “Research” (e.g. ME-4991) and gets a grade from you for their effort. The topic of this research can be mutually agreed on between and the expectations for a good grade should be clear. You simply need to offer the course by contacting Manny and then the student enrolls in it. The students should first check with their academic advisors to see if this works with their schedule – but it generally does. This mechanism opens up their schedule a bit to allow them time to research.
Option 3: Ask for volunteers in your lab. Many capable MIE students are looking for opportunities to experience academic research through volunteering. If they know you want volunteers, they will contact you. Volunteering should still come with high expectations and you should give them their own project and sufficient advisement.
Option 4: Advise a student-designed project. Many students have their own research ideas. These students can apply for the Provost Undergraduate Research Awards to get $500 to $1000 in material costs. They need to partner with a professor for guidance.
MIE Prof: What should my expectations of an undergraduate student be?
Randy: We have talented undergraduate students. However, most of them thrive with structure. I’d suggest the following guidelines:
Define the project: Make expectations clear and advisement available. Giving them ownership of a small project is better than assigning random tasks. Exploratory subprojects of PhD work is a great model. This can propel your PhD students forward by giving them more firepower to sample different lines of inquiry.
Define the work week: I would suggest expecting a minimum of 10 hours of work per week. This includes volunteers. Smaller commitments don’t usually justify the training time and effort.
Give them weekly advisement: If you don’t have time, identifying a PhD or PostDoc to act as an advisor works well and can accelerate your graduate student projects and give them good career experience.
Give them a goal: Giving the students deadlines to showcase their work is important. Examples include requiring a final presentation to the group or participating in the RISE conference on campus.
MIE Prof: Ok, these options sound good. Now how do I find a student?
Randy: If you want undergraduate researchers, they are already trying to find you, Let’s start the matching process. Send me an email at email@example.com , I will give you a link to post a job to our database and to view our current student applicants interested in research opportunities. Now that’s simple.