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Undergraduate Research


"Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought."
- Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

Research is about passion and exploring the unknown. 

Research is the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources to establish facts and reach new conclusions.

This knowledge can come in different varieties such as:

  • new facts that were previously unknown
  • theories about how facts are connected
  • improving current methods or techniques
  • uncovering new questions that have yet to be answered

The research can happen in any discipline:

  • the natural sciences and mathematics,
  • the social sciences and
  • arts and humanities

Research can happen anywhere:

  • on a cluttered bench in a scientific laboratory
  • in the dirt of the great outdoors
  • in the dusty archives of a library
  • on a computer screen in your home
  • in your neighboring communities
  • in lands abroad.

Undergraduate research is a scholarly study in any discipline in which inquiry, discovery, and creativity culminate advancements in science, technology, the arts, or humanities.

Any undergraduate chosen by a mentor may participate in UGR. Students from all disciplines - from anthropology, history, design, English to physics, microbiology and business management - can engage in the excitement of scholarly research.

Research is an opportunity for you to identify something that interests you and study it in depth. It is up to you to seek out the information you need from textbooks and primary sources.

Research involves:

  • critical thinking
  • problem solving
  • detailed analysis
  • synthesis of ideas

This approach tends to be how learning happens outside of school - not by memorization and regurgitation but by trial, error, and hopefully, success. Immersing yourself in research will teach you how to do the work on your own.

You can make significant contributions to the research effort and scholarly productivity at UNCW. As a result, you will:

  • establish meaningful relationships with the faculty
  • enhance your academic experience
  • develop marketable career skills
  • prepare yourself for competitive graduate and professional schools

Indeed, most graduate programs will expect to see some record of undergraduate research as a requirement for admissions. All fields of industry welcome students who already have the kind of applicable job experience and training gained through the practice of research.

There are a variety of benefits for undergraduate students who get involved in research. Research experience will allow undergraduate students to

  • gain better understanding published works
  • learn to balance collaborative and individual work
  • determine an area of interest
  • help jump start their careers

Participating in research as undergraduates leads many students to discover their passion for research and continue to graduate studies and faculty positions.

A direct benefit of research starts in the classroom. When investigating any phenomenon in class, it is useful to know how the original study was performed. By engaging in UGR, students will find it easier to understand the reasoning behind others' research.

Additionally, UGR can provide students with an ongoing source of one-on-one mentorship that is unheard of in the undergraduate curriculum. A less direct benefit, and one that is more difficult to teach in the classroom, is the balance between independence and collaboration.

Research is often performed in collaborative teams, and one must learn to balance a collaborative effort in the laboratory with work that can be accomplished independently. Interdisciplinary work is difficult to teach in the classroom, and on-the-job experience with teams is a bonus for any workplace environment.

The nature of research today is such that interdisciplinary teams are becoming the norm and gaining firsthand experience in teamwork should be encouraged.

Exposure to an area of research can assist students in exploring potential career fields. The earlier students become involved, the more experience they attain, which enhances their career choice. Some undergraduates who are unsure what to do when they attain their undergraduate degree, will proceed to graduate school with the ill-fated idea that it is the next logical step after undergraduate studies.

This will leave them ill-prepared for the strenuous coursework to come. If they have undergraduate experience in research, they are more likely to know if they enjoy research. Through UGR, undergraduate students may discover a passion for research they never knew existed.

Steps for Getting Involved in UGR

  1. Determine your area of interest:
    • Keep a broad perspective when searching for research opportunities
  2. Check out the research of the faculty:
    • Surf departmental web pages
    • Ask fellow students (undergraduate and graduate) who are conducting research
    • Talk to professors about their research
  3. Identify potential faculty members (about 4 or 5):
    • Gather information about their research
    • Collect published articles by the professors
    • Make yourself visible by attending departmental events
  4. Contact the faculty members:
    • Contact them by email and/or visit them to tell them you're interested in their work and would love to be involved
    • Identify the project and demonstrate what you know on the subject
    • List relevant courses you have taken or are taking and/or training you have
    • Ask to meet again to talk more about it
  5. Follow up!:
    • Passion, dependability and being personable are key
  6. Understand your expectations and theirs. If you are successful in acquiring a research opportunity, discuss project details:
    • How many hours per week can you work?
    • To whom will you report?
    • What will your specific duties be?
    • Is this a group project or an independent project?
    • Should I take this as a directed independent study (DIS)? If so, what do you consider "A" performance?
    • What additional literature do you recommend that I read?
  7. Then... Present your work at a conference or even be published in an article.

After your experience, encourage others to do the same and help them do what you've done.

See departmental websites and offices for more information.

If you are interested in any of these opportunities, please contact CSURF (stop by the office or send us an email at for more information and application materials.