Undergraduate Research for Career Preparation

Have you ever thought about scholarly research in your field as career preparation for your students? It’s clear that research is helpful for students on a grad school track, both for helping them decide if they really want to do it and to pad their CV, but what about those students who know they want to get a job right after DU?

Research can be a career-altering, opportunity-opening experience for those students too! Think about the skills that you (and your students) need in order to do research:

  • Critical thinking, problem solving, and quick learning                                                                   
  • Oral and written communication
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Professionalism and a strong work ethic
  • Adaptability, flexibility, and resiliency

These are exactly the skills that employers are looking for! While it can be difficult for students to articulate how they have demonstrated these attributes in their coursework, an authentic research experience gives them a unique story to tell to prospective employers.

And think about writing a letter of recommendation to a future employer of your student: how much stronger will it be if you can give specific examples of their resiliency, their creativity, their oral and written communication, and their critical thinking in the context of real research challenges?

Resources to Support Undergraduate Research

The Undergraduate Research Center (URC) is here to support students throughout the research process, from exploration and proposing, to doing and struggling, to presenting and disseminating. In addition to research-related workshops and outreach, the URC offers three different types of research grants:

  • PINS (Partners in Scholarship): Students write 2-page proposals for up to $1500 to pay for supplies and travel costs for research during the school year (deadlines in middle of fall and winter quarters).
  • Summer Research Grant: Students write 2-page proposals for up to $3500 to pay for supplies, travel, and a stipend for research during the summer (deadline is the first week in spring quarter).
  • Student Scholar Travel Fund: Students can receive funding to pay for travel expenses to go and present their research at a conference.

Additionally, the URC hosts the Undergraduate Research Symposium at the DU Research and Scholarship Showcase. At this event, every year more than 100 DU undergraduates present their scholarship to their peers and faculty groups, and showcase the creativity, diversity, and ingenuity of DU students.

How can you help your students to get involved with research? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Sign up for the URC email list so you know upcoming workshop dates and application deadlines.
  • Contact the URC if you would like to brainstorm ideas for building onramps to student research, or have an experienced undergraduate student researcher come talk to your class about their research experience.
  • In the classes you teach, inform your students about the career advantages of research. You could even encourage your students to contact you if they are interested in research.
  • Ask students that you teach and advise about their interests. Tell them about your research passion. Look for connections and for ways you could tweak your own research to involve and interest undergraduates.
  • Explain to your students and your colleagues about the resources available to support undergraduate research.
  • Come to the Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Spring quarter to support our undergraduate researchers and see what is possible!
By Mark Siemens
Mark Siemens Director. Undergraduate Research Center | Associate Professor, Physics & Astronomy