Undergraduate Research Opportunities

The Council for Undergraduate Research defines undergraduate research as “an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline.” One of the greatest benefits at the University of Minnesota is the ability to do undergraduate research. Through your college you can get involved in research by volunteering, pursuing student employment, participating in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), or taking upper-division independent research courses under the direction of a faculty member. The Center for Immunology is one of the leading research groups at the University of Minnesota and we offer many opportunities for students to become a part of research projects.

Interested in research but unsure how to get started? Check out the CBS Research Roadmap guide and explore more info at the CBS resource site.

Resources to aid your Undergraduate Research Pursuit

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Establish Your Interests

Think about what you want to do. What problems do you want to solve? What are you curious about? What fascinates you? Which topics have appealed to you in your coursework? You will spend a lot of time and effort on research – and your research advisor will expend significant time and resources to mentor you – so you need to find a project that excites you both. A research project can require a greater time commitment than another class. Research is interdisciplinary, so don’t be afraid to consider opportunities outside your major.

 EWIS Friend in STEM              Peer Research Consultants

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Meet with a Peer Mentor

Find your possible Mentor

 CFI Research Interest Form                       CFI Faculty List

  • Visit the Office of Undergraduate Research Find a Mentor page

The CFI Research Interest Form will ask you for several pieces of information to pass on to the labs of interest.  Include a CV/Resume and a letter introducing yourself, stating your education and career goals, and your interest in the research.  Request an appointment to learn more about the research of that individual/group.  Be sure to include all of your contact information and the days and times that you are available.

 Your letter should read like a cover letter and include the following:

  1. Who you are (your background, major, any relevant course work, strengths or experience you bring. In many cases, prior research experience is not required).
  2. Let the professor know that you are considering getting involved in research, you have read a bit about her/his research program, and that you would like to find out more. Professors understand that students are not experts in the field, and they will explain their research at a level that you will be able to follow. What you have learned about their research that most interests or excites you and why you are interested in it (a topic discussed in class, an article you have read).
  3. What are your future educational and career goals
  4. What you are looking for (Are you just starting out in the discipline? Are you planning to work on a research project over the summer? Do you anticipate writing an honors thesis? Are you looking to work during the regular school year)
  5. Ask if you may schedule an appointment or come talk to them during office hours. It is not recommended that you ask for research opportunities directly in this message.  Keep the message brief and to the point. Give contact information and your availability.

      **Depending on the faculty member and the time of year, you will get different responses. If you do not hear back from the faculty member in four weeks, you may send an email reminding them of your interest.  But also be prepared that not all labs are looking for undergraduate students at the same time you are interested so you may need to try again at a later date.

You have and interview... Now what??

Your research paid off and you have been asked back to talk to the professor...now what?

Set the meeting time

Make arrangements with faculty according to their schedule preference, not your own. Be prepared to arrange the date/time via a support staff person or by email. Alternatively, be prepared to stop in during the professor’s office hours.

Before the Meeting

  • Read at least one article or abstract written by the potential mentor and prepare some well-informed questions about the research.  Have a clear idea about why you are interested in their work and, more generally, engaging in research in their lab. How can you contribute to the lab? Have a sense of what you think you can offer and what you might want to accomplish. Most importantly: be prepared to show enthusiasm and interest in what they do.
  • Print out your unofficial transcript, a current resume or curriculum vitae (CV), and a personal reference or two.
    • Be sure to include on your resume any prior research experiences and techniques or procedures with which you are familiar.
    • Be prepared to provide not necessarily a letter of recommendation, but the name and contact information of someone who knows you well. Especially if you are a freshman or sophomore, this can be a teacher or counselor from high school or someone who knows you personally. 
  • Think about what dates and times you will have available to work and whether you are looking to receive academic credit, an undergraduate research funding award, a Federal Work-Study (FWS) position, or a volunteer position.

The Interview

  • Arrive on time (or early).
  • Come to the meeting prepared!! Do your own research. Search online for papers and lab/research information about the potential mentor. Try to understand the basic principles of their research areas and the methods they use before you meet with them. But don't worry if you find some of the methods confusing professors understand that students are not experts in the field, and they will explain their research at a level that you will be able to follow.
    • accesCFI faculty info for lab info and mentor specifics
  • During the meeting, you should give the potential research mentor an idea of the amount of time you can commit to the research experience, both in hours per week and total number per semester, and how long you anticipate you will be in the lab (1 semester...1 year, etc)
    • Be sure to cover your interest in getting involved with their research program.
    • Have some questions ready when they ask if you have any questions.

What questions to consider asking faculty?

  • Do you have a research project that needs an undergraduate student’s help?
  • How did you get involved with this particular area of research?
  • What motivated the faculty member to do this work?
  • What excites them? What plans they have for the future?
  • What are the typical responsibilities for undergraduate students engaged in your research?  And what are your expectations of them?
  • What skills or characteristics do you expect an undergraduate to have before beginning a project with you?
  • Are there specific courses you suggest that I take?  Or skills that I should develop?


You want to make sure that a great conversation continues. You should send a thank-you note/email to acknowledge their time and to elaborate on why you would enjoy working with them. Also, you should follow-up with anything that was requested of you during the meeting, such as a recommendation contact or a writing sample.

  • If you have a few labs to choose from, make a list of pros and cons, taking into consideration not only your enthusiasm for the project but also your schedule, other commitments, and travel time.
  • After you make your decision, contact all potential mentors you met with to thank them again and let them know your plans.

 ("elevator pitch" adopted from https://www.purdue.edu/undergrad-research/students/get-started.php)


Summer Research Opportunities

UMN and National Funding Links

The following is a list of funding sources that can provide fellowships and research funding during school and summer terms:

UMN Internal Programs:       

Medical School and UMN specific Summer programs:

National Programs that provide external funding:

CBS Students: External Research

Association of American Medical Colleges: AAMC National Programs
Council on Undergraduate Research: Internships and Research Opportunities
IBP: Pathways to Science to increase diversity in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce.: Funded STEM Programs (Basic Search)
National Institute of Health Undergraduate Grant Programs: NIH Programs
National Science Foundation: NSF Intro Page
Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE): ORISE Fellowship Program

STEM opportunities for undergrads: STEMUndergrads.science.gov

UMN Job Search Aids


GoldPASS powered by Handshake is the University of Minnesota’s free search database for jobs, internships, and volunteer positions offered exclusively to UMN students and alumni! You can register for career fairs and employer events, sign up for interviews with organizations that are coming to campus, and access other job search resources.



GopheResearch is a “Monster.com” for undergraduate research to help widen opportunities for UMN undergraduates to participate in research. GopheResearch was developed by Kashif Qureshi, an undergraduate in CBS.


UMN Student Job Board

Student jobs are a form of financial aid. The University has programs to help you find work that best fits your needs. Before applying for a student position, review the eligibility information to make sure you are able to hold a student position. Eligibility for Student Employment



 Research the Research

Start with your college websites, both CBS and CLA offer a research tab on their homepage. The Office of Undergraduate Research can help you prepare for your educational journey.  Explore faculty websites with their research interests, and look up current publications. What work is happening that aligns with your interests and excites you?

Office of Undergraduate Research          CFI  Researcher Interest Form

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 Directed Studies, Fellowship, Paid, or Volunteer?

Now you need to decide...Directed Research or Directed Study? Summer funding? Research Scholarships? Lab Volunteer? Job as a Student Worker? Talk with your faculty mentor and your college advisor to figure out which path is best for you.  But to help you navigate here are some suggestions.