One of the greatest myths about research is that it involves Supercomputing and lots of test tubes. The truth of the matter is that research is limitless and has unbelievable freedoms. Professors in the humanities and social sciences have supported undergraduate research for years. There are also many interdisciplinary projects that transcend departments.
No. Many freshmen and sophomores decide to explore their options by volunteering in labs and networking. Through this process, they develop the necessary skill set and move on to the positions that really interest them during junior and senior year. Joining clubs can make this networking more effective.
Keep your eyes open. Research opportunities are known by faculty and they can help point the way. Internships are excellent programs for developing research skills. These opportunities are offered through the Ram Career Network. You can find out more by visiting the Career Development Center.
First, create a Pivot profile. You can search Pivot for collaborators at WCU and other institutions interested in your research topic. Some departments have faculty lists with their research interests and you can visit faculty during office hours as they will enjoy talking about their research. Check out department websites to get information about faculty. Faculty profiles list ongoing projects, past publications, and/or current interests. Speaking to faculty will give you a better idea of which professor is interested in what topics.
Make use of WCU library resources and familiarize yourself with the topic. A strong knowledge base is essential for great research. Attend lectures on campus and speak with faculty. Upcoming research events are posted on our homepage. Eventually you will find someone who works in your field of interest and may even take you under his or her wing. Searching for collaborators on Pivot is an excellent way to find faculty and other students who share your interests.
ABSOLUTELY! WCU has ample opportunities to pursue any and all interests. Taking time to pursue research outside of your major and department is a great chance to explore and become a well-rounded student. Often, you will learn that the techniques and principles applied in a given field relate to the one you are studying. Interdisciplinary synthesis is a powerful tool that you will develop. It is a skill that will be called forth once you leave WCU.
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We take care of the red tape and guide you through the process. Check out our Find Funding for information on the process. Also, create a Pivot profile and start searching for funding opportunities. We can review these and help you fund your research. The Financial Aid Office and the WCU Foundation have resources for external and internal scholarships that may serve as funds for student research.
Undergraduate research will help you get into graduate school by identifying your strengths and interests. However, undergraduate research will not simply get you in because you have gone through the motions. Undergraduate research is an invaluable experience that confers understanding more about yourself than anything else.
We would like to acknowledge the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board for this FAQ and thank them for permission to adapt and reprint for WCU.