Getting Started with Undergraduate Research and Creative Discovery

Clarify Interests

  • Investigate areas of interest by reading books, academic journal articles, and magazines. Notice how various fields are organized and what methods are used in research. Becoming informed allows you to engage in meaningful discussions with a potential mentor. 
  • Visit MSU department websites to learn about the current research activity of faculty members. This can help narrow your interests and identify potential avenues of research collaboration. 
  • Peruse past Undergraduate Research Symposium booklets to learn about the types of research that other undergraduate students have collaborated on and to identify potential faculty mentors.
  • Do not worry if you are unsure about the type of research you want to complete-- being open to a variety of opportunities is a good thing! Develop a list of multiple projects and mentors that interest you. A research experience may help clarify what you do and do not enjoy.

Contact Faculty Mentors

Many research projects at MSU that are actively recruiting student researchers can be found in the Search MSU Opportunities portal. Is there an MSU faculty member whose research interests align with yours but who has not posted a call for student researchers? Inquire about the possibility of engaging in research with them through a professional email that includes the following:

  1. Biographical Information: Name, MSU NetID, academic year, major, & minor
  2. Research Interests: Include a 3-5 sentence paragraph highlighting your interests and goals, based on reading and informed investigation.
  3. Past Research Experiences & Relevant Coursework
  4. Request to Meet: Conclude your email with a polite request to schedule a meeting to discuss the possibility of research mentorship further and/or joining an existing research team.
  5. Resume or Curriculum Vitae: This should be attached to your email as a pdf, doc, or docx file.

Clarify Goals & Expectations

  • Be realistic and honest with your faculty mentor about when you can get started and how much time you can devote to a research project on a regular basis. Establishing this up-front is best practice.
  • Students typically devote 5-15 hours a week on research during regular semesters, but may work full time during the summer. 
  • Working with faculty and other researchers is a rewarding experience. It takes time, attention, and diligence to learn new skills, thoroughly understand a field, and contribute to research activities.
  • Those who gain the most from research experience, start early, remain patient, and maintain long term participation. Remember, mentoring a student researcher is also a significant commitment on the part of a faculty mentor in terms of time, effort, and potential expenses.
  • Research experiences may be either voluntary or compensated. If you are engaging in unpaid research, be sure to ask your mentor about the possibility of earning course credit for your work. Coursework involving research may fulfill some major requirements.

Current Student Researchers

Xavier Person, a Biomedical Engineering major, recounts how he got involved with research at MSU.