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Types of Undergraduate Research Experiences

Research OptionsThere are numerous ways you can participate in undergraduate research at USF. Whether you choose a research seminar, laboratory course or an optional directed-research project within a course, you may select an experience that best fits your schedule and research interests. If you are unable to commit to research during the fall or spring semesters, there are lots of summer research opportunities available. Engaging in a variety of research opportunities throughout your academic career will help you gain a competitive advantage for employment and/or graduate school. In addition, participating in undergraduate research adds value to your undergraduate experience and USF degree. To learn more about the types of available research opportunities attend a Getting Started workshop:


One-on-One Mentored ResearchThis is the type of experience most often associated with undergraduate research. Students engaged in a one-on-one mentored experience work directly with a research mentor on a defined project. One-on-one mentored positions are highly competitive and typically require a significant time commitment over several semesters. Students considering this option should learn all they can about a potential research mentor including the mentor’s research interests and publications. One-on-one mentored positions are typically established by direct communication between a potential mentor and student, therefore, as preparation for this experience, students must engage with the potential mentor. This can be accomplished through enrolling in a course offered by the mentor or meeting with the mentor during office hours. While this type of opportunity is limited, with perseverance and motivation it can nonetheless be obtained.


Capstone ExperienceUpper-level Capstone Learning Experience courses provide students with a culminating educational experience associated with the major or the Core Curriculum. Capstone courses typically bring together knowledge from the discipline for deeper understanding of the discipline. These courses, by definition, must lead to a summative product such as a project, a paper, a proposal, or a performance. Importantly, students can work with the faculty to develop these projects into a meaningful undergraduate research experience. The courses available through the above link satisfy the FKL general education requirement.


ProjectsThrough partnerships with academic and non-academic units, the OUR has established a variety of undergraduate research projects designed to engage students in cross-disciplinary research and improve critical thinking and research skills. These experiences are made available to students who attend a Getting Started in Undergraduate Research Workshop.


Research SeminarsThroughout the academic year, most USF programs sponsor seminars/lectures by preeminent scholars. Attending these events provide the opportunity to network with leading scholars in the discipline, research faculty, graduate students and peers who share similar research interests. Seminars are also a great way to develop interdisciplinary research ideas. Sponsored seminars are advertised on the student government website, university website and on department and college websites.


REU and Summer ProgramsREU stands for Research Experience for Undergraduates. The National Science Foundation (NSF) offers many REU opportunities each summer across multiple disciplines, and USF typically hosts several NSF REU’s each summer. Additional research experiences are also available through government agencies, foundations and the private sector. External opportunities may be found here. OUR staff are available to assist students with the REU application process.


Community EngagementEach year, the OUR partners with the Office of Community Engagement to offer a variety of research, clinical practica, creative performance, and service-learning projects. To learn more about how a community volunteer experience can be considered undergraduate research contact the OUR »


Laboratory CoursesLaboratory courses provide an introduction to research in a specific subject area. In addition, laboratory courses provide practical experience and allow direct contact with graduate students and faculty who may offer additional research opportunities. Many programs also offer research methods courses that provide an overview of discipline specific research.


Volunteering and ShadowingA great way to get started in research is to volunteer with or shadow a research mentor. These low-engagement mentored activities allow students to network with faculty and graduate students. Volunteering or shadowing can also lead to a high-engagement mentored research opportunity. Students who volunteer or shadow a research mentor should enroll in the IDS 2912 Undergraduate Research Experience course (with the consent of the research mentor).

* Note: A volunteer/community service experience that is not mentored, such as answering the phones at a local hospital, creates the opportunity for students to network with a potential research mentor; however, the activity of volunteering alone is not considered undergraduate research.

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