Undergraduate Research Experience

Why should you get involved in research as an undergraduate?

If the answer "it'll be good for you" doesn't cut it without further explanation, consider the facts:

  • You will learn something new and grow as a person and a student. It'll look good on your resume and your transcript as reviewed by employers and graduate schools.
  • It will give you another good professional reference.
  • It may qualify you for better graduate school funding.

In addition, some other advantages of Undergraduate Research include:

  • Undergraduate researchers experience gains in specific skills such as making use of primary literature, formulating research hypotheses, interpreting data, and communicating the results of research (Kardash, 2000, 2004)
  • They show measurable gains in sophistication of epistemological reflection (Rauckhorst, Czaja, and Baxter Magolda, 2001)
  • They experience personal gains in independence and selfconfidence (Seymour, et al., 2004)
  • They show gains in career clarificaton and career preparatoin (Lopatto, 2003; Seymour, et al.)
  • They persist in their pursuit of an undergraduate degree at a higher rate than comparison groups (Nagda, et al, 1998)
  • They pursue graduate education at a higher rate than comparison groups (Hathaway, et al., 2002)
  • And as alumni they retrospectively report higher gains than comparison groups in skills such as carrying out research, acquiring information, and speaking effectively (Bauer and Bennett, 2003)

How do I gain undergraduate research experience at UB?

Getting Leads:

  1. Use the services of the Center for Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities (CURCA) here at UB: http://www.curca.buffalo.edu/
  2. Familiarize yourself with some of the general areas of research conducted by departments and centers at UB as outlined at: http://www.eng.buffalo.edu/Research
  3. Browse the undergraduate catalog for your major. Keep an eye out for concentrations of interest (and who teaches those courses in particular) as well as the faculty section where specific information about the backgrounds of our professors are listed.
  4. Consult with your faculty mentor/faculty advisor for assistance in finding a possible match.
  5. Don’t tell yourself you are too young and inexperienced. Everyone has to start somewhere and the sooner the better.
  6. Be open to opportunities. Review all e-mail forwarded to the engineering listservs, read departmental newsletters and notices on bulletin boards, learn from the experiences of other students and professors, and get interested.
  7. Be open to opportunities. Don’t turn down something just because you don’t think you’ll want to do it for the rest of your life. Research by definition builds upon itself and opens new frontiers so you never know where it will take you and at the very least it may introduce you to the research process. You’re not looking for something that will determine the fate of the rest of your career, just something to start with.

Contacting potential professors to work with

  1. Contact the professor(s) whose work you are most interested in. Start by sending a brief e-mail introducing yourself and your interest in talking with them about their research. Ask for an appointment and when possible, give them ranges of times you are free the following two weeks. The School of Engineering Faculty/Staff Directory is at: http://www.eng.buffalo.edu/Directory/ and the University at Buffalo Online Directory is at: http://www.buffalo.edu/directory/
  2. Meet with the professors to find out more. Ask for ways to learn more and get involved. Seek referrals for others you might contact if necessary.
  3. All engineering departments have a 498 course number on the books to officially award academic credit for undergraduate research. This is often listed in the online class schedule (not the schedule wizard). Consult with your professor about whether or not your experience will warrant credit, and if so, how your credit will be evaluated (for a letter grade). Consult with the director of undergraduate studies about the possible use of such credit toward a technical elective in your major.