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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 Department of Psychology Academic Advisor about the specific requirements.
REQUIRED TRAINING for All Undergraduates Engaged in Research
All students engaged in research are required to complete Responsible Conduct of Research and Scholarship (RCRS) training. This certification is valid for 3 years. If you've already completed the training, please ensure that your certification is still valid. If your certification expires before the end of the current semester, you will need to retake the RCRS training. Click here to check the expiration date for your existing certification. Students who do not complete the required training within 30 days of beginning research may be dropped from their independent study credit. For more information about the RCRS requirement, visit the Research Ethics and Compliance website.
Participating in Research
How Can I Find a Research Position?
**The Research Opportunity Tool, which was previously linked here, has been retired. Please use the tips below to search for research positions in the Psychology department.**
Psychology Research Laboratories: On this website you will see a list of Psychology Labs by area of psychology. 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.
Faculty Research Interests: This website will allow you to search for faculty who are doing research based on keywords. You should check their faculty profile to find out more about their research and teaching interests.
Psychology Undergraduate Newsletter: View the newsletter archive or sign up for the newsletter. The Psychology SAA office will share lab postings through the newsletter.
Office Hours: Use this opportunity to meet 1:1 with your Faculty or Graduate Student Instructors (GSI's) about their research interests. This is a great way to explore potential interests of your own and make connections to labs who may be hiring.
Psych 331: Research Methods in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience
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 Principal Investigator/faculty member 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.
What to Include in a Cover Letter/Email to Labs
When contacting faculty to sponsor you for an independent study course or inquire about an undergraduate research assistant position, we recommend that you:
- Treat it as if it were a professional job interview.
- Explain what interests you about their specific research. It is expected that you have done some background research on the faculty, their publications, and current research projects. This information can usually be found on the lab’s website.
- Avoid copying & pasting information from the lab’s website. Make yourself stand out by reading their recent publications!
- Explain how you will be an asset to the lab. Think about skills you have gained through other jobs or experiences – you don’t have to have previous research experience to be a good fit!
- Include how this experience will help you towards your career goals (i.e. what you are hoping to learn from this opportunity).
- Provide a resume with examples of leadership, self-motivation, and dedication to work tasks.
- Ask to schedule a time to meet to learn more about their lab and discuss the possibility of getting involved.
- If the lab does not have any openings at this time, consider asking if you can sit
in on a few of their lab meetings to observe and learn more.
- If the lab does not have any openings at this time, consider asking if you can sit
- If you don’t hear anything back after 2-3 weeks, follow up to express your continued interest/excitement.
- You can also try emailing the current graduate students in the lab.
What Skills Will I Learn by Doing Research?
By participating in research you will learn more about:
- research methods
- academic writing
- your interests/disinterests
- the concepts that you've learned in the classroom
The skills below apply especially to Psychology and BCN majors.
SKILLS AND ABILITIES
Framing a research question
Defining problem areas
What Types of Research Opportunities Are Available to Students?
You should 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 out these research opportunities at UM:
- Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) for frosh & soph
- UROP Research Scholars (for 2nd year UROP students)
- UROP Changing Gears (transfer students)
- Psych Research for course credit
It is possible to do Psych related research in a lab outside of the Psych Dept as well. You would need to find a faculty co-mentor who is in the Psych Dept and has experience in the area or with the topic you are planning to research. This Psych Faculty would request permission for you to enroll in the appropriate independent study (Psych 322, 326). Co-mentors are responsible for deciding whether your project is psych related and entering your grade. You should coordinate with your lab supervisor/faculty and your co-mentor to make sure you are all aware of the work which will be submitted, how you will be graded, and how you will keep in touch to review your progress. It is up to you and your lab supervisor/faculty to keep track of your hours.
Tips From Undergraduates About Their Research Experience
"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."
"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."
- Plan to spend at least two semesters working in a lab.
- It's OK to switch labs if you are not getting what you need. Just be sure to communicate your intentions with both labs!
- Contact faculty early if you plan to register for course credit.
- Review our Preparing for Graduate School page
Questions Undergraduates Can Ask When Interviewing for a Research Assistant Position
- How much of a time commitment is expected?
- What projects would I be involved with?
- Are there active, ongoing studies?
- How much freedom will I have to choose studies to work on that interest me?
- What would my role entail?
- What will I be able to bring to the lab?
- What do you look for in an ideal undergraduate research assistant?
- What is the lab environment/culture like?
- What is the general pace of the lab?
- How often are papers being published?
- Would I have the opportunity to be published?
- Is there room for growth in this lab, such as gaining new positions or being assigned to new studies?
- What are the options regarding enrolling in this lab for course credit (i.e. Psych 322, 326, 422, 423, etc.)?
- What are the opportunities for pursuing a honors/senior thesis in this lab?
- Will I have a chance to interact in person with the PI / professor?
- Will there be opportunities to work one-on-one with grad students?
- Will there be opportunities to attend conferences or poster presentations?
- Would it be okay if I also work as an RA in another lab at the same time?
- What have previous undergraduate students gone on to do after leaving the lab?
Post-Bac Jobs in Research
Pursuing research as a position or post-bac (a degree after your undergraduate experience that allows you go deeper or broader in your studies) is an excellent method to prepare for:
- a full-time career in research
- professional school
- academia, or
- any number of industries or the government.
For more information and resources for finding these positions, click here.