The Department of Chemistry provides a variety of opportunities for undergraduates to participate in research programs during the academic year and the summer. Faculty members welcome undergraduates in their research groups and usually arrange a close collaboration with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. These symbiotic interactions provide opportunities for students to work with the latest equipment and ideas in modern chemical science, in an environment that provides close mentoring and support.
Below are some general steps for conducting research as an undergraduate:
- Do well academically and explore your interests and goals
- Survey the landscape of opportunities
- Contact professors with whom you'd like to work
- Take appropriate research methods courses and attend seminars
- Consider a summer research experience
- Maintain a positive working relationship with your mentor
- Talk to the Office of Undergraduate Research
Academic Year Opportunities
Usually, undergraduate research is handled with a CHEM 393/CHEM 395 courses. One year (eight credit hours) of CHEM 393: Senior Thesis Research is required as part of the BS degree, and is optional for students selecting the BA degree. An undergraduate may also work with a professor as part of his/her research team during their first, second, or third years. Often this is done as CHEM 395: Independent Research.
Some chemistry majors choose to perform undergraduate research in other departments (e.g., biochemistry, pharmacology, etc.) either as part of their chemistry degree requirements, or as independent study courses. If you are interested in joining a laboratory, please get in touch with the professor you wish to work with.
CHEM 393 Senior Research (4 credits)
One year (eight credit hours) of CHEM 393 Senior research is required as part of the chemistry BS degree and is optional for students selecting the BA degree. They should typically plan for at least 8 hours of research per week in the lab. BS majors should be emailing faculty in the spring of their junior year to set up plans for senior research. Ideally, students could work over the summer in the same lab so that they have a lot of momentum going into senior year.
For more information see the senior thesis research page.
How to register: CHEM 393 no longer uses the online “Independent Study Form”. Instead, students will register online as they do for other courses. There is a CRN for each instructor for CHEM 393. You will need to meet with the instructor and discuss their expectations and get their permission to register.
CHEM 395/Independent Research
An undergraduate can work with a professor as part of his/her research team during their first, second, or third years. The student and advisor will agree to the number of credits hours the study will be worth, a title, grading criteria and more. Usually, students register for 2-4 credits each semester of CHEM 395 Independent Research; 2-credits is about 4-5 hours per week and 4-credits is about 8-10 hours per week (details worked out with faculty instructor).
How to register: Students must submit an “Independent Study Form” by the deadline (usually about 2 weeks into the semester and noted on the academic calendar). On this form the student and advisor will agree to the number of credits hours the study will be worth, a title, grading criteria and more.
Beckman Scholars Program
The Beckman Scholars Program provides 15-month mentored research experiences for exceptional undergraduate students in chemistry or biological sciences. The program is guided by core values of research excellence, mentorship, and inclusion. Each year, two University of Rochester Beckman Scholars will be selected and receive $21,000 over 15 months in support of their research projects under the mentorship of select Rochester faculty. Scholars will participate in a number of research-related activities and workshops and have the opportunity to present their research at the National Beckman Research Symposium.
See the Beckman Scholars Program page for more information.
Usually, summer research positions are paid, with funding coming from the College, the department and the faculty member’s research funds. Typically, they are 10-week programs with full-time work (40 hours per week). Students should email faculty in the early spring (February) to start planning for summer research. When doing research in the chemistry department over the summer, University of Rochester students will participate in the same professional development opportunities as those enrolled in the REU and i-Scholar program.
Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program
University of Rochester students can consider joining a summer program at a different University through the National Science Foundation’s REU program at various sites around the United States.
Non-University of Rochester students can apply to join the REU program with our department. Note that REU programs are open only to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
This highly competitive summer research program for international undergraduate students is designed to provide promising undergraduates in chemistry from all over the world the opportunity to conduct first class research at the University of Rochester. Visit the i-Scholars page to learn more.
Summer Program in Germany
German DAAD RISE program runs a summer program in Germany. These can be great ways to get broad research experience in a different academic environment.
Sample Email to Instructor
Students should email the faculty member to introduce themselves and ask about learning more about their research. A simple email is all it takes to get things started.
Dear Professor X,
I’m a current junior and majoring in chemistry and I’d like to learn more about your research program. Are you currently accepting undergraduate researchers into your lab? If so, is there a time we could meet to discuss your research? I took organic chemistry last semester and was really interested in XXX, which seems connected to the kinds of work you describe on your website. I’m interested in starting research (next semester/over the summer/soon) and have some lab experience from my prior courses: CHEM 131 (A), CHEM 132 (A-), CHEM 203 (B), CHEM 207 (A)…