The sophomore or early in the junior year is the optimum time to become involved in research. Why? Undergraduate research takes time and builds on coursework and experiences at the University. It is desirable to view it as at least a two-year project during which the student decides on an area of research, connects with a faculty mentor, and moves through several steps in the research process. Transfer students who enroll at the beginning of their junior year are encouraged to seek help immediately if they wish to be involved in research.
The semester framework is one that faculty and students are familiar with, but it is not the best time frame for research. This is an activity that works best with a longer horizon. For example, the psychology honors program expects students to accomplish a significant independent research project and provides four semesters for the accomplishment of this activity. Given the value of curriculum-based research experiences, it is very useful for student and the research mentor to develop an academic plan that combines courses and special experiences as the way of accomplishing research over more than one semester.
All A&S students are eligible for undergraduate research. Students who are performing well academically are more likely to pursue research opportunities. Students who are performing well academically are more likely to be involved. First-generation and transfer students aren’t well-represented nationally in undergraduate research, so whenever possible, they should be encouraged to become involved. Most students with a lower academic standing shouldn’t assume additional responsibilities; however, faculty are encouraged to identify students who are capable but less engaged. In such cases, undergraduate research is a potential path to a more passionate involvement with learning.