Undergraduate Research


Faculty research serves to build research groups around important modern questions in chemistry and biochemistry, and attracts undergraduate researchers to them. The undergraduate researcher commonly works closely with an advanced graduate student, while interacting with the faculty member as appropriate. With appropriate direction, undergraduate researchers can make valuable contributions to the group's research program, to the point of co-authorship of journal articles and meeting presentations.

If you are interested in undergraduate research for credit, you will need to register for CHEM 5030, Undergraduate Research. Before registering, download the file of available undergraduate research projects below. After you identify one or more projects you are interested in exploring, contact the appropriate faculty member to arrange for a meeting. Chem 5030 can be used to fulfill the department's capstone requirement, and your research director will be allotted a small stipend of research funds to assist you in conducting your research.

Undergraduate Research Topics

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The opportunity to become involved in undergraduate research, particularly if you are a chemistry or biochemistry major, is very valuable for your overall education. Students choosing to conduct undergraduate research will experience the excitement and challenges of conducting research, while developing as independent scientists. Each student will have close contact with a faculty mentor in their general area of interest as an important means of achieving this goal. They will also benefit from interacting with other research group members including graduate students who are similar in age and background. The department encourages publication of our students research results: many of our undergraduate research students have co-authored publications, and have made presentations at local, regional and national meetings as a result of their research here. In addition, graduate schools and employers view experience with undergraduate research favorably.

Undergraduate research in chemistry is most commonly taken for academic credit (CHEM5030, with a separate section for each of our faculty members). This academic credit may be applied toward the capstone requirement for all four of our undergraduate degree programs. Most important, though, is the experience of conducting original research. Your experience in research may well help guide your decisions about future career paths.

The Department of Chemistry has approximately 21 research active faculty members, many of whom are well known nationally and internationally. Their research interests span a wide range, including the traditional subdisciplines of chemistry as well as many interdisciplinary areas. Consequently, the choices of laboratory projects that are available for undergraduate research are extensive. Enrollment in CHEM5030, including for completion of the capstone requirement, must be with a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry (although joint projects with a faculty member outside of the Department is possible).

Students may become involved in undergraduate research as soon as they feel they are ready and have some time available to devote to research. A few students start during or at the end of the freshman year, while more do so after the sophomore year. Others choose to wait until the middle or end of the junior year when they have had coursework in several different areas of chemistry. Students may take CHEM5030 during any semester, including summer, and may repeat enrollment in CHEM5030 multiple times. To use CHEM5030 for the capstone requirement, students should review our related webpage on the capstone requirement.

Students seeking to begin undergraduate research should review the "Research Projects Available for Undergraduate Research" to search out potential projects of interest. Once several potential projects have been identified, students should contact the faculty member for each project, meet with him or her, and learn more about the project and the activities that would be involved. You might ask questions such as:

  • What would be my research role in your group?
  • How does my project fit into the group's overall goals?
  • What chemistry prerequisites do I need to perform well in the group?
  • How much time am I expected to spend in the lab per week? Is this flexible?
  • Does the group have weekly meetings? When?
  • Does this project have the potential to lead to publication and/or presentation?

From there, the student is generally able to select a project that fits their interests and circumstances. The details of hours expected, effort involved and reports to be generated are worked out with the specific faculty member. To use CHEM5030 for the capstone requirement, the faculty member must certify successful completion by his/her signature on the Capstone Certification Form (see capstone requirements for more details).

Undergraduate Library Research Project

In the B.S. Chemistry degree program (only), students may also choose to carry out a library-based research project under the supervision of a chemistry faculty member. This activity is carried in through enrollment in the faculty member’s section of CHEM5020. Students will conduct library research on a topic selected by the faculty member, generally related to his or her laboratory-based research interests. The requirements for the successful completion of the capstone requirement via CHEM5020 are the same as for undergraduate research, namely a written report on the project and an oral presentation (see the capstone requirements for more details).