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What is Research?
Research is an exploration to establish new knowledge and facts. Participating in research will allow you to learn more about research techniques used in the process. Some of the possible jobs you may be responsible for are searching literatures, collecting surveys, conducting experiments, entering data, analyzing data, and much more!
Note that Research may fulfill your methods and/or experiential based lab requirement for Psychology or BCN. However, you must check with a psychology Academic Advisor about the specific requirements.
How Does Research Prepare Me For Graduate School?
If you are planning to apply for a PhD program, research experience is expected. If you plan on applying for a professional graduate school program, research is also a great way to develop skills that will transfer to a variety of fields. Graduate and professional programs will look for depth of research experience when reviewing your application along with strong letters of recommendation from faculty. It will expose you to:
- research methods
- academic writing
- what it means to be part of a team
- what really interests/disinterests you
- a deeper investigation of concepts that you've learned in the classroom
Here are a few examples of what undergraduates have said about how their participation in a research lab has supported their preparation for graduate school:
"It's an opportunity to specialize in a topic of interest, which could help solidify future research/professional plans."
"Getting close with professors is great in terms of being able to get letters of rec for future applications."
"It may provide an opportunity to present/attend conferences, which looks good on resumes, and exposes students to a variety of different topics they may find interesting and want to pursue further."
"Use your PI, PhD students, and labmates as a community and a resource for not only career development, but also life decisions and academic help."
How Does Research Prepare Me For a Career?
By participating in a research lab, you will develop a lot of valuable skills which will be applicable not only in a lab or studies, but also in your job search.
Here are a few examples of what undergraduates have said about how their participation in a research lab has provided helpful career skills:
"When helping to run studies, you learn how to carefully follow directions, think on the spot and adjust when curveballs are thrown at you, and engage with people from many backgrounds."
"The people skills that you can learn are incredible. If you run participants, then you learn the balance between being professional and being amicable. You develop a lot of patience and understanding for people in different situations."
"You learn how to be accountable for your actions and ensure that the part you are working on does not violate any of the regulations of the experiment. And if it does, to make sure you can correct it."
The skills below apply especially to Psychology and BCN majors.
SKILLS AND ABILITIES
Framing a research question
Defining problem areas
When Should I Get Involved?
There is no class level limit in getting involved in research. It is advisory to start your research experience as soon as you have topics of interest. This way, you will have more time to explore your opportunities. If you find the research you are doing intriguing, you will have more time to study the subject in depth. If you find the research you are doing is not your top choice and not corresponding to your expectations, you will still have time to try something new.
Try these opportunities during your first two years at UM:
- Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) for frosh & soph
- UROP Research Scholars (for 2nd year UROP students)
- UROP Changing Gears (transfer students)
- Psych 326 (independent study with a Psych Lab)
Advanced Research Opportunities
Whether you begin with UROP or an independent study such as Psych 326, you should consider these advanced options:
Psych 422/423: One term advanced project that involves a specific number of hours in lab plus a research-based paper.
Senior Thesis: Two term advanced project conducting and analyzing research leading to submission of a final thesis and poster presentation at the departmental Research Forum. Overall GPA determines which of these options are possible.
Honors Thesis: Same as above, but requires a 3.4 overall gpa.
How Do I Get Involved in Research?
Psychology Research Laboratories: On this website you will see a list of Psychology Labs by area of psychology.
Faculty Research Interests: This website will allow you to search for faculty who are doing research with your topic of interest. If a list of faculty appears after your search, check their research and teaching interests description on their profile. Contact the faculty if you want to know more about their research project or want to ask for opportunities to work in their lab.
How do I Contact Faculty? What Should I Say?
Some labs have a link to apply for positions on their lab website while others include contact information. You can also contact the faculty member directly. All contact information is listed on their faculty profile.
When contacting faculty to sponsor you for an independent study course or undergraduate research assistant position, we recommend that you treat it as if it were a professional job interview. It is expected that you have done some background research on the faculty, their publications and current research projects. Explain how you will be an asset to the lab, and how this experience will help you as you develop your career path. Provide a resume with examples of leadership, self-motivation, and dedication to work tasks.
Contact faculty early if you plan to register for course credit. Students interested in research should plan to spend at least two semesters working in a lab. Therefore, students need to contact faculty early in their career to pursue these opportunities, which are an asset to Psychology graduate admission applications (and often the most important component of the application).
Other Research Opportunities
Psych 331: Research Methods in Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science
Psych 331 is a research lab immersion experience that also provides a formal lab course experience.
- It is the recommended entry lab course for students who want to join a professor’s research lab in Biopsychology or Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience areas.
- It satisfies the upper-level LS&A writing requirement (ULWR)
- It also satisfies the Group 1 lab requirement (course-based lab) for Biopsychology and Cognitive Neuroscience (BCN) majors, Psychology majors, or Neuroscience majors. Alternatively, Psych 331 can be used to satisfy the Group 2 lab requirement (independent lab or second lab) for students in those majors if you will satisfy your Group 1 requirement with a different lab course.
- It involves about 10 hours per week of biopsychology-related research in a professor’s lab, a once-a-week 2-hr class meeting, and a rigorous amount of writing in order to fulfill the LS&A ULWR.
The purpose of this course is three-fold:
- Provide students with opportunities to gain in-depth practical laboratory experience by assisting in the research lab of an individual faculty member in the Biopsychology or Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience Program.
- Introduce students to selected general methods and techniques used in the field of biopsychology and cognitive neuroscience.
- Provide practical knowledge about research design, quantification of behavior, scientific writing, the use of animals in research, and miscellaneous techniques used in biopsychology and cognitive neuroscience research.
Intended Audience: Students majoring in either Biopsychology and Cognitive Neuroscience (BCN) or in Neuroscience who are interested in gaining actual research experience while fulfilling their major’s lab requirement and LS&A ULWR are encouraged to apply. You must apply to the professor whose lab you wish to join.
Submit a completed 331 application form directly to the professor whose lab you are applying to work in (go to application link for detailed instructions). Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until all available positions have been filled. The application describes the available PSYCH 331 lab sections. Make sure to follow up with the professor. Once the student is accepted into a PSYCH 331 lab section, the faculty member will contact the Psychology SAA Office, and an override will be given.
Class Format: Students will attend the PSYCH 331 lecture 2 hours/week and are expected to work 10 hours/week in a faculty member's PSYCH 331 lab.