Frequently Asked Questions about Undergraduate Research

How do I get started with undergraduate research?

Check out our guidance, tips, and resources for getting started in research. You will find information on:

  • reflecting on your readiness for research and what you are looking for in a research experience 
  • identifying your fields of interest and research opportunities
  • contacting potential mentors or programs
  • meeting with potential mentors to determine if the experience is right for you. 

How do I find a research mentor?

While this may seem like the first step in your Undergraduate Research endeavors, getting started with research is a more nuanced process than just finding a mentor. Most importantly you should begin with self exploration, then find opportunities and take action contacting or applying for positions or programs. We outline these steps in detail, which include appropriate ways to communicate with potential faculty mentors.

If you would like a one-on-one conversation about getting started in undergraduate research, we encourage you to meet with an academic advisor in your college after reviewing resources available on our website.

Can research for credit count towards my graduation requirements?

In the College of Engineering, this varies by major. You may be able to use research credits towards your Advisor-approved or Major-approved Electives.  Check with your major to learn more - the Undergraduate Coordinator, Director of Undergraduate Studies, and your Faculty Advisor are fantastic resources.

How can research experience help me if I am looking for a career in industry?

The skills you develop as an undergraduate researcher are applicable to work in industry, whether or not your role is directly related to research. Undergraduate researchers can work on teams, problem-solve, practice creativity, develop their communication skills, and more. Consider what skills you would like to work on and work with your research mentors to find ways to practice them in your role as a researcher. In addition, your research mentors can serve as references or write letters of recommendation when you apply for jobs.

Do undergraduate research credits count towards full time student status and the semester credit limit?

Yes. Enrolled research credits count toward the full-time standing at Cornell and towards the College of Engineering credit limit.  Research credits may not, however, count toward good standing, depending on your major or whether or not you are unaffiliated with a major.  You can petition to take over the 20 credit limit. 

How should I be compensated for research? Should I volunteer, receive credit, or be paid?

The decision to conduct research as a volunteer, for credit, or for pay is a personal decision, and the benefits of each depend on your needs. Read more about research for credit, pay, or volunteering and decide what is best for you.

Can I use Federal Work Study (FWS) to be paid for undergraduate research?

Yes. Students that are eligible for FWS and are being paid to conduct research can apply FWS funding to their research position during the academic year or the summer. Contact the financial aid office to learn more. 

Can I get feedback on a draft email to a potential faculty mentor?

Yes. College of Engineering student services offices, undergraduate coordinators within your major, faculty advisors, professors, TAs, and current undergraduate researchers are great sources of feedback. You can schedule an appointment with an Engineering Academic Advisor or the Engineering Career Center on Chatter.

What do I do if I have a conflict or other challenge during my research experience?

If you are comfortable, it can be best to talk to the person with whom you are experiencing the conflict and work together to come to an understanding or solution. If you would like support in working through a research-related conflict, the following are excellent resources: