Undergraduate Program

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers a wide range of research opportunities for undergraduates. Although the bulk of the opportunities are only available to juniors and seniors, the department does occasionally offer positions for freshmen and sophomores as well. 

Research can be done during the academic year for pay or credit, or during the summer for pay through the department’s competitive NSF-supported Research Experience for Undergraduates program. Students can also participate in REU programs at other research universities during the summer.

Most of our positions are located River Campus. Our faculty work in other facilities like the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, C.E.K. Mees ObservatoryFermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the European Organization for Nuclear Research—CERN and may occasionally have undergraduate research positions available.

Undergraduates share and discuss their research with others through the Rochester Symposium for Undergraduate Physics Students (RSPS), the Undergraduate Research Expo, the Journal of Undergraduate Research, numerous topical conferences such as those run by the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), and, occasionally, prestigious peer-reviewed research journals such as Physical Review Letters.

How to Get Started

Generally, the best way for a student to get started in undergraduate research is to do well in their coursework. They can also network with other students, attend seminars and colloquia, and chat with professors.

For many projects, some knowledge of a computer language such as C++ or Java is useful. Students should spend time learning about the research done in the department as well as departments doing research in similar areas such as optics, chemistry, earth and environmental science, and mechanical engineering. 

A good place to start is the faculty listing. This list includes faculty with joint appointments in other departments. After considering areas in which they might want to work, students should contact the appropriate professor(s) and request a meeting to discuss the professor’s research and the possibility of working with them. 

More information can be found on the Office of Undergraduate Research website. Students interested in doing research with faculty in the department during the summer should apply to the physics and astronomy REU program.