STEM Undergraduate Research

Students who participate in science, technology, engineering or math undergraduate research learn by doing. They are directly involved in a research project in their faculty mentor's laboratory. They become a part of the laboratory research group and discuss their research with faculty and undergraduate and graduate students. Undergraduate research students are given the opportunity to attend scientific meetings, to present papers at these meetings and often are able to publish their results in scientific journals.

Why do undergraduate research?

There are several reasons to get involve in undergraduate research:

  • reinforce concepts learned in classes 
  • get to know and appreciate a professor and their career
  • the research group and department provide a smaller unit within the university 
  • boost career prospects (graduate school, medical school, industry, teaching) 
  • gain motivation and confidence
  • earn money 
  • have fun (excitement of discovery, interaction with others, exposure to new ideas and methods) 

How do you get started in undergraduate research?


  • identify your interests: Which STEM field or sub-discipline “turns you on”? What sort of question intrigues you? You may be able to find a match between your interests, and those of one or more of our faculty members. See the list at the bottom of this page. Take the next step: look-up the faculty member’s website (links are located elsewhere on this same site) and look into the research being conducted. If you like what you see, contact the faculty member and inquire about the possibility of current or future openings in his or her lab.
  • look and listen: ask your friends, ask your teaching assistants, look at available departmental literature, read the bulletin boards, search the web 
  • be inquisitive: ask professors to tell you something about their research 
  • be open-minded: what matters is to do research of some kind, you are not necessarily committing your entire life to that particular project; your primary goal should be to find a lab that will provide you with a good research experience
  • be committed: it takes time to train you; professors will be interested in research students who can devote sufficient time and who are able and willing to make a long term commitment to a project
  • be persistent: if your first choice is full, don't give up- go visit another research group; make and keep appointments to discuss research with a faculty member 

What opportunities are available?

  1. Volunteer - One way to gain research experience is simply to volunteer to work in a particular research group. 
  2. Credit - You can register for specific classes if you are interested in receiving course credit for research. You should check with your departmental advisor about the course number for undergraduate research and how it will fit your degree plan. Note that individual professors may have specific section numbers. You may also work at the Health Sciences Center and receive credit through the Department of Biological Sciences (again, check with your advisor). 
  3. Work-study - You may qualify for the College Work Study Program, which provides jobs for undergraduates. Work-study students are paid on an hourly basis at a rate equivalent to at least the current federal minimum wage. Details are available at the Financial Aid Office. 
  4. Lab Assistant - Laboratories with external funding from a granting agency such as the national Science Foundation or National Institutes of Health may have money available to pay you as a research assistant. Many granting agencies will provide supplemental grants to their grantees for undergraduate research student stipends. 
  5. Summer Research Opportunities - Be alert for posters describing summer research programs at other universities, national research centers and biological field stations.
  6. CISER Undergraduate Research Scholars   - The Texas Tech University/Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Education Program @ the Center for the Integration of STEM Education and Research (CISER) was established in 1992, and HHMI grant support ended in 2014. The current CISER URS Program provides the same support to students with a significant, long-term research experience that prepares them for post-graduate studies in science and/or medicine, or for alternative studies in STEM, such as environmental law. 

    The program goals are to:
        • Inform students of undergraduate research opportunities;
        • Involve students in research early in their time at TTU;
        • Provide consistent, long-term support; and
        • Encourage students to pursue careers in STEM fields.

          Competition to be an URS is rigorous. Students eligible to apply must be:  
          (1) TTU undergraduates enrolled in a minimum of 12 hours (which can include Undergraduate Research hours); (2) in good academic standing; (3) interested in STEM related research; (4) either an American citizen or permanent resident or, in the case of foreign nationals, hold a visa allowing her/him to work in this country; and (5) able and willing to participate in the Scholar Service Organization , a student org supported by CISER.   

          The URS application is open year round, and applicants will be invited to interview on a case by case and as needed basis. Interviews are conducted by a team of current undergraduate Scholars, faculty mentors, and the program directors. New and current Scholars attend Annual Scholar Orientation, Scholars work year round with faculty mentors and become an integral part of the CISER seamless community, participating in the a variety of dynamic events and opportunities.

          Questions? Contact: 
           Julie Isom, Associate Director for Research, Biology 25   julie.isom@ttu.edu