The Department of Crop & Soil Environmental Sciences strongly encourages students to pursue undergraduate research opportunities while at Virginia Tech. Typically the best time to participate in undergraduate research is either summer before junior or senior years or during your junior or senior years. There are sometimes opportunities to do research as a sophomore or even as a freshman.
Why should I participate in undergraduate research?
Undergraduate research allows for the hands-on application of concepts and information learned in the classroom and enables students to participate in real research.
Participating in undergraduate research is often a requirement for students pursuing research careers, and for many career options in the sciences. In addition, students participating in this type of learning experience often get to know faculty better and thus faculty can provide more meaningful references.
How do I find undergraduate research opportunities at Virginia Tech?
Arranging an undergraduate research experience is less formal than the standard class enrollment process and expectations and policies may vary from one faculty member to another.
Although opportunities to conduct undergraduate research are occasionally advertised via listservs and flyers, generally students must contact individual faculty to inquire about research opportunities (which may vary from semester to semester due to research funding, the faculty’s other commitments, etc.).
To initiate this process, consider the following steps:
- Check out the faculty page of the CSES website to learn more about the research our faculty are doing and contact faculty whose research interests you.
While considering your area of research interest, keep in mind that you may also contact faculty from other departments and labs such as Agricultural and Applied Economics, Dairy Science, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Horticulture, Entomology, Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science; VT StREAM lab, VT Microbial genomics, VA Bioinformatics Institute, VA Water Resources Research Center, etc. These departments maintain lists of faculty research interests and students should also scan such lists to identify potential mentors.
- Once potential faculty are identified, students should:
- Contact those individuals (by email, phone, or in person) to inquire about undergraduate research possibilities, indicating why you wish to do undergraduate research and why you are interested in that faculty member’s area of research.
- Provide potential faculty with a current resume as well as a list of relevant classes completed or in progress, the type of experience you wish to obtain (volunteer, for-credit, for-pay) and some information about your availability (when you hope to start, how many hours a week you can participate, how many semesters you hope to do research). If you choose to phone or contact faculty in person, you should be ready to answer these questions.
- Students may work directly with a faculty member, a postdoctoral scientist, or a graduate student within the faculty member’s research program.
- Students commonly spend 6-15 hours a week working on a project, but this can vary and is determined jointly by the student and faculty member. If research is carried out for credit, mentors generally expect 3-4 hours per week for each credit received. You must talk with your academic faculty advisor to determine how much academic credit you wish to earn.
There are also opportunities for undergraduate research off campus
What if I need further assistance?
If you need further assistance, please contact your academic faculty advisor and/or Jen Stewart, the CSES Student Support Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org). She can also assist you with your application materials such as your resume, cover letter, and preparing for an interview.
For more information:
Student Support Coordinator
Undergraduate Research in the News
Ruth Anderson - April 18, 2014