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Research Opportunities

The University of Michigan is a top tier research university.  This presents a great deal of opportunity for our students to be on the cutting edge of research in their chosen field, in an ‘apprentice’ role.  Many faculty would argue that education by doing research is as important as your studies in the classroom.  It is the environment where you will apply what you have learned in class most directly.  You will also learn important skills that cannot be taught in class, such as self-direction, handling vague problems, and learning how to ‘learn’ on your own.  Our best and brightest students at the University have always been very engaged in research. 

Getting Started in Research

As a student, your goal should be to engage in at least one year of research experience. Many students begin in their first or second years, but each situation is different. Sometimes, the hardest part is getting started. We've provided a few helpful hints below to point you in the right direction.

Enrolling in an Independent Study Course

PHYSICS 415: Independent Study: This course emphasizes experimental or theoretical research under the supervision of a faculty member. Generally a small facet of a large research undertaking is investigated in detail.

PHYSICS 496/497: Senior Thesis I/II: Students get introductory experience and research work with faculty, the results of which could provide the basis for a senior thesis project. Students who do not complete their thesis research in PHYSICS 496, may continue to PHYSICS 497.

Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Summer Program

The National Science Foundation funds a large number of research opportunities for undergraduate students through its REU Sites program. An REU Site consists of a group of ten or so undergraduates who work in the research programs of the host institution. Each student is associated with a specific research project, where he/she works closely with the faculty and other researchers. Students are granted stipends and, in many cases, assistance with housing and travel. Undergraduate students supported with NSF funds must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions. An REU Site may be at either a US or foreign location.

Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP)

This program is designed for first and second year undergraduate students who are seeking a first time research experience. Student research assistants work alongside a faculty member, research scientist or professional practitioner on an ongoing or new research project.

Summer Research within the Department

The Physics Department offers a summer research program for undergraduate majors, when departmental funding allows. The participating students are matched with faculty mentors with whom they will work over the course of the summer months. The positions are paid and the number of positions varies from year to year. They're separate from faculty-funded positions. For those inquiries, we would encourage you to reach out to the specific faculty member that you would like to work with. The Student Services Office sends out an application for department-funded research positions shortly before the end of the Winter semester, typically in late March or early April. If you have questions, please email We look forward to working with you!