Undergraduate Research Opportunities
Professor Joshua Pierce
Director of Undergraduate Research
I. General Considerations
Undergraduate research, with challenges and opportunities that are distinct from the classroom, can be valuable for undergraduate students for a variety of reasons including:
- Development of laboratory skills: Undergraduate students can gain in-depth hands on experience and training with a variety of instruments and laboratory techniques that are not available in laboratory courses. In the research laboratory, students are often introduced to new instrumentation not present in lab courses and/or receive more extensive training on instrumentation and other laboratory techniques. Such skills are highly sought by companies that employ B.S. graduates in chemistry, and students with an extensive undergraduate research experience have a competitive advantage in the job market as well as applications for graduate or professional school.
- Pedagogical value: The challenges (intellectual and otherwise) of independent research are quite different from those of the classroom. An intense research experience can develop critical thinking skills that complement classroom learning.
- Fellowships/Scholarships: Undergraduate research scholarships/fellowships are available at the departmental, university and national level.
- Career choices: Many students graduate with degrees in chemistry and make decisions about their future careers (academic and professional) without a comprehensive understanding of what a research chemist actually does. Although classroom learning is important, it does not adequately convey the challenges and experiences of performing research. Thus, those students who gain research experience are better able to decide on the career/academic path that best suits their interests and goals.
- Students performing research in the Department of Chemistry (or a closely related discipline with a substantial chemistry component) can obtain credit for the research experience. The course for research experience is CH 499, and 1 to 3 credit hours (pass/fail) can be taken per semester. The procedure for CH 499 registration is provided below.
- Who Should Perform Undergraduate Research: Serious students seeking to broaden their knowledge and skills, eager to learn more about science, and desire to engage in a challenging/rewarding experience. Undergraduate research is beneficial, but requires a commitment of time and energy from the student.
II. Options/Considerations for Undergraduate Research in the Department of Chemistry
Research can be performed during the academic year and/or during the summer. In addition to opportunities at NCSU, the National Science Foundation also sponsors exciting summer research programs (Research Experience for Undergraduates, or REU, Programs). See below for more details on REU and related programs.
CH 499: Research for 1 to 3 hours of course credit (CH 499) can be performed (for either a letter grade or S/U basis). In order to fully benefit from the experience, students are strongly encouraged to work for at least two semesters in a single research group; however, work beyond a single semester is not a requirement. Typically, the research experience is performed with a research group in the Department of Chemistry; however, research outside the Chemistry Department that has a chemistry component is also a possibility. The latter option requires prior approval by Prof. Joshua Pierce. Research during the summer provides the best opportunity for learning and research accomplishments, and when possible students are encouraged to continue their work during the summer months. Arrangements for summer research vary from group to group and are directly with the Research Advisor.
III. Selection of Research Advisor for CH 499
Follow the steps below to select a research advisor:
- Visit the web page at http://www.ncsu.edu/ncsu/chemistry/research/areas.html to view a list of research groups with brief descriptions of research interests. From this list, select at least three research programs that interest you. At this point, please submit an application for undergraduate research that will be reviewed each fall and spring as explained on the application. Contact Prof. Pierce if you have questions.
- Wait for a response from Prof. Pierce regarding the research application. You will receive the names of faculty who have expressed interest in you and would like to meet to discuss potential opportunities.
- Contact the research advisors (by email) of these groups and introduce yourself and ask to set up a meeting as a follow up to your undergraduate research application.
- During the individual meetings with prospective research advisors, you should learn details about research opportunities for undergraduate students and the expectations of each research advisor. It is important that advisor expectations be clearly delineated in order to ensure that you are able to meet the course requirements. Based on these meetings and available positions, select a research group to join.
- IMPORTANT: In order to enroll in CH499 your faculty research advisor must send an email to Ms. Brenda Burgess with the following statement: Please enroll (your name here) in CH499 for (semester and year here) for x (x = 1, 2 or 3) credit hours on a (choose either letter grade or S/U here) basis. For example, if you wish to take CH 499 during the Fall 2007 semester for 2 credit hours, the email would read: Please enroll Jane Doe in CH499 for Fall 2007 for 2 credit hours on a letter grade basis.
- Arrangements to begin your research project are made directly with your research advisor.
IV. Course Requirements
The requirements to receive credit for CH 499 will be sent to all students registered for CH 499 (by email) at the start of each semester.
V. Grading for CH 499
Students have the option of taking CH 499 as S/U or for a letter grade. Students should decide whether to take this course as S/U or for a letter grade in consultation with their faculty research advisor. If you enroll in CH 499 for a letter grade, your faculty research advisor will assign your grade in consultation with Prof. Pierce.
VI. Summer Research Programs for Undergraduate Students
NSF REU Programs: The National Science Foundation sponsors a variety of Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Programs at sites across the United States. Although details of the programs vary depending on the site, they typically offer a ten-week intensive research experience including a stipend during the summer. Often, financial support for travel and housing/subsistence are also provided. These programs offer exceptional academic and research opportunities, and all undergraduate chemistry majors at NCSU are encouraged to consider participation in REU programs. Admission to REU programs is quite competitive, and most REU sites begin accepting applications in December or January. A list of current sites with web addresses that provide details of the specific REU programs can be found at:
Oak Ridge National Lab: Oak Ridge National Laboratory offers a summer research program. Students participating in this program receive a stipend and housing. A variety of research opportunities are available. For more information, visit the following web site:
VII. Research Faculty