SUNY Cortland is a great place for undergraduate students to participate in real research. Research can take on many forms and varies greatly from discipline to discipline. Some research projects stem from a student's own interest in a particular topic that he or she wishes to study in more detail. Other students become involved in ongoing faculty research.
Undergraduate research is a great way to develop skills in independent critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, allow you to acquire knowledge in an academic field that transcends classroom study and provides hands-on experience to help you clarify academic and career interests and goals.
Most undergraduate research involves faculty mentorship. Faculty generally view their mentoring of undergraduates as a deeply satisfying form of teaching, although one that can require a major commitment of time and resources. Some are energized by the enthusiasm and fresh perspective that undergraduate can bring. Others feel the responsibility to “give back”, and honor the faculty who mentored them by helping the next generation.
The way YOU will choose to get started in undergraduate research is up to you—there are many “right answers”. Here are some ideas:
Almost all departments offer courses in which students can engage in independent research. Many of these courses are listed with the 399 or 499 course numbers. You should review the college catalog to obtain course descriptions and specifics about any prerequisites for these courses, since each department is responsible for their own course offerings. Talk to a faculty or department chair about this option.
Cortland’s URC offers a limited number of competitive fellowships that provide an opportunity for undergraduate students and their faculty mentors to engage in eight weeks of full-time scholarly activity during the summer. These are student designed and led research projects that require a faculty mentor/sponsor and a formal proposal. There is a modest stipend for the student and up to eight weeks free on-campus housing. Click the funding and grants page for more details and application information.
Many faculty have their own research grants from which they employ undergraduate students to help with their research. Students engaged in an undergraduate research assistantship have the opportunity to observe a professional scholar in action. Students may help faculty in the preliminary research stages, particularly a review of literature, annotated bibliographies or databases, although students may also assist with a piece of a project. Look for position postings in your department or talk with a faculty member to find out what’s available.
Cortland’s internship program combines academic study with career-related work/learning experiences. Quite a few local, regional, or national employers and organizations offer internships with a significant research component. Some of the experiences offer stipends, housing, and other benefits. A good place to begin searching for an internship is by talking with your department’s internship coordinator and SUNY Cortland’s career services, or on the web. Please note, deadlines for summer internship programs usually occur during the previous Fall or Winter.
There are also many research opportunities and programs available outside of SUNY Cortland. This may take the form of study abroad experience, summer institutes, or fellowships. Google is a good place to start. The National Science Foundation has compiled a site of Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), providing links to research opportunities in the natural sciences.