When should I start doing research?How do I find research opportunities?What research opportunities in the Biosciences are available at the UO?How much time should I spend?What should I expect?Should I volunteer for research, take it for credit, to try to get paid?What sources of funding are available for UO summer research in the biosciences?Related Opportunities

Bioscience laboratories at the University of Oregon host cutting-edge research that offers outstanding opportunities for participation by undergraduate students. In addition to providing training in experimental methods and logic, participation in hands-on research synergizes with coursework, provides skills to secure post-graduation employment, and can help students decide among various career paths. Research experiences also foster skills that are broadly transferrable, including clear oral and written communication, team work, organization, multi-tasking, resilience, and more. Many graduating students report that their hands-on research was the most meaningful educational experience they had while at the University.

When should I start doing research?
The beginning of Junior year is an ideal time for many students to join a research lab. At that point, students have completed introductory coursework, have a sense of the subdisciplines in Biology they find most interesting and are starting to consider post-graduation plans. However, highly motivated students often start in their sophomore or even freshman year, and this early start can produce an exceptionally rich experience. Although a start as late as senior year is possible, this allows less time to develop independence, and many faculty are reluctant to take on students at that point.   

How do I find research opportunities?
Finding a lab can take persistence because faculty have many demands on their time, and most labs can accommodate only a few undergraduates. So, start early, cast a wide net, expect that some faculty will not respond to your inquiry, and don’t hesitate to email a reminder if you have a strong interest in a particular lab.

  1. Peruse online research descriptions of UO life science faculty (see Research Opportunities in the Biosciences below). Identify laboratories whose research sounds interesting to you.
  2. Inquire with faculty-of-interest by email, concisely addressing the following points: – your year in college (e.g. junior), your major, whether you have completed the introductory biology sequence, and any relevant upper level courses you have taken. It can be helpful to identify courses you found particularly interesting because this will help the faculty member gauge whether you would be a good fit for their lab. – what attracts you to that particular lab, and any prior research experience you have had. – roughly how much time you could commit to research that term.
  3. Faculty seeking undergraduate researchers often post opportunities here: https://urop.uoregon.edu/students/opportunities/current-uo-opportunities/

If you get a positive response, the next step will typically be an in-person interview.   

What research opportunities in the Biosciences are available at the UO?
Most UO life science research takes place in the context of inter-departmental research institutes: the Institute of Molecular Biology, Institute of Neuroscience, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, and Oregon Institute of Marine Biology. Additional laboratories that may be of interest to Biology majors can be found in the Departments of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Psychology, Environmental Studies, Human Physiology, Anthropology, Physics, Earth Science, and Geography. Faculty research descriptions can be accessed from each of these sites. A list of bioscience-related research active faculty  across most of these units can be found here.

In addition, faculty hoping to recruit students for specific projects may post opportunities through the Center for Undergraduate Research and Engagement (CURE) within HandShake. Log into HandShake with your Duck ID, and input “CURE or Center for Undergraduate Research and Engagement” into the search tool bar.   

How much time should I spend?
Students typically spend 8-10 hours/week in the lab during the academic year. However, there is considerable flexibility and variation, and the specifics need to be arranged with the faculty advisor. It is also typically expected that a student will continue in a lab for at least one year, with the understanding that the arrangement can be terminated at any time by either the student or the faculty mentor if things aren’t working out.  Students who participate in research during the academic year often continue their research full-time over the summer.   

What should I expect?
Undergraduate students generally start by assisting a senior graduate student or postdoctoral fellow in an ongoing research project. As they develop skills and sophistication, undergraduates are given increasing independence. Students who show exceptional initiative and engagement may ultimately earn co-authorships on publications and present their research at conferences outside the UO. Undergraduate researchers are generally expected to attend weekly lab meetings. Sample mentor-mentee contracts can give a sense of typical expectations of the student and advisor.   

Should I volunteer for research, take it for credit, to try to get paid?
It is rare for students to do research for pay during the academic year, but many labs do employ students to help with routine lab support tasks. During the academic year, students generally volunteer and/or receive course credit for their research. The UO expects students to work an average of 3 hours per week for each research credit. Research credits are Pass/No Pass only. Biology and Marine Biology majors may apply up to 4 credits of BI 401 research toward their elective upper division Biology credits. Two terms of BI 401 in the same lab fulfills one lab/field requirement. It often makes the most sense for students to take 2 credits of BI 401 for each of 2 consecutive terms in the same lab. Most students then continue in the same lab on a volunteer basis. BI 401 credit also counts towards the university upper division credit requirements.

Students in the Biology Honors Program are required to register for additional research credits, but these do not count toward the Biology major.

To register, you must fill out this Bi401 registration form with the # of credits and the specific CRN assigned to your faculty mentor in the UO Course Listings, have it signed by your faculty mentor, and return it to the Biology office by noon of the “add course” deadline for that term. Students cannot get research credit retroactively.   

What sources of funding are available for UO summer research in the biosciences?
Full-time research over the summer provides a special opportunity to develop your research skills, advance your project, and evaluate whether a career in research might suit you. Summer research is typically an extension of research that began during the academic year, and applications for funding are most competitive when the applicant has already worked in the host lab for several terms. A stipend or fellowship for summer research can often be obtained from the mentor’s research grants or by application to one the following UO programs:
VPRI Undergraduate Fellowship
Peter O’Day Fellowship

Related Opportunities:
Biology Honors Program
Undergraduate Research Symposium