Carleton’s Strategic Plan calls us to “emphasize student research as a defining component of a Carleton education.”

The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) has defined undergraduate research as “an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline.”

Undergraduate research takes place in a variety of contexts: on-campus, off-campus, as a collaboration with faculty on their research program, and as a self-directed project. Below are links for exploring the different options for students wishing to undertake undergraduate research, as well as financial resources information.

What kinds of opportunities are available for undergraduate research?

Carleton students can participate in undergraduate research in two main forms. Explore these two options below:

Frequently Asked Questions about Undergraduate Research

How can I find research projects to join or undertake?

What actions should I take?

Undergraduate research is sponsored by many different departments on campus, such as the Humanities Center, the STEM Board, the Dean’s Office, and individual departments.

For this reason, the best way for students to learn about undergraduate research is to speak with professors about their research and ask how students can become involved in their research. Try contacting an instructor you have had, your advisor, or the department chair in your field of interest.

Some departments offer courses that provide collaborative research opportunities with faculty during the term. These include Biology (394), Chemistry (300 or 394), Cognitive Science (396), Physics and Astronomy (356) or Psychology (300).  Ask an instructor or chair in these departments for more information about enrolling in these courses.

How can I initiate a conversation with a professor about undergraduate research?

Look at faculty webpages to gain a sense of their research interests and discover what seems interesting to you. Ask them if they would be willing to describe their research to you, and the opportunities that are available for students to do research with them.

Here is an email template that you can adapt for your purposes:

Subject:  Meeting to discuss undergraduate research opportunities in [topic]

Dear Professor [name] ,

My name is [name] and I am a current [year/major]. I am interested in learning more about some of the undergraduate research opportunities available on-campus, especially within the field of [field]. [Expression of particular interest in this field or in the professor’s personal research.] I would appreciate the chance to talk with you more about research in [topic of interest] and about possible undergraduate opportunities [in your lab/your project/your field.]

[student name]

How can I contact a non-Carleton professor about undergraduate research?

For students seeking undergraduate research opportunities at other institutions, consider using the above template but additionally highlighting your relevant experience or coursework in the field as well as offering to provide additional/supplementary information upon request. This might include:

  • A résumé or CV (including information on previous research experiences)
  • An official electronic transcript (available free of charge via the Hub)
  • names and contact information for verified references.

TIP: It is strongly recommended that any drafted email or other communications with faculty from another institution be shared with a Carleton advisor/faculty member for feedback.

How can I receive funding…

For undergraduate research projects with Carleton faculty?

During academic breaks, students may receive financial support as Student Research Partners with Carleton faculty. Carleton faculty secure this funding from external granting agencies or the college. Students should contact faculty to inquire about the possibility of working with them during breaks.

For independent research?

Many students engaging in independent research can apply for Fellowships through Carleton’s Office of Student Fellowships and their Carleton-Funded Opportunities.

These are just some of the opportunities available for students pursing undergraduate research projects!

For support to travel to conferences or research sites, project costs, and comps-related expenses?

The Office of the Provost offers academic grants, up to $500 per student per year. Students with demonstrated financial need can apply for additional assistance.

Apply here: Dean’s Office Student Academic Grants

For on-campus housing support during academic breaks?

Student Research Partners conducting research while living on campus during academic breaks can submit the following Application for SRP Summer or Winter Break Housing Support. This support will be awarded based on financial need.

Can I receive academic credit for undergraduate research?

Faculty-Directed Research

During the academic term, students may receive academic credit for contributing to a faculty member’s research program. The research project involves structured mentoring by faculty, which occurs in a variety of department-specific course offerings (e.g. BIOL, CGSC and CHEM 394; PHAS 356; PSYC and CHEM 300).

Independent Research

During the academic term, students may receive academic credit for conducting their own research project under the supervision of a faculty member. They should register for Independent Research (courses numbered 292/392).