Undergraduate Research

Students who participate in undergraduate research learn by doing. The 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 a professor
  • the research lab and department provide a smaller unit within the university
  • boost career prospects (graduate school, medical school)
  • 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 biological 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
  • 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 lab is full, don't give up- go visit another lab; 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 lab.
  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 in a lab 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 lab assistant. Many granting agencies will provide supplemental grants to their grantees for undergraduate research student stipends.
  5. TTU-HSC - There are several programs available within the Department of Pharmacology at the Texas Tech Health Science Center. These stipends are funded by the National Institute of Health (Short-term Research Training for Minority Students) and the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships). For more information contact the School of Medicine, Department of Pharmacology, TTUHSC, Lubbock, TX 79430 (806-743-2425).
  6. Summer Research Opportunities - Be alert for posters describing summer research programs at other universities, national research centers and biological field stations.
  7. TTU/HHMI 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) is an established, undergraduate research program (celebrating 20 years at TTU in 2012) that provides 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 science, 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 biological and biomedical research.

    Competition for TTU/HHMI fellowships 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 scientific 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 limit their employment to this position. 

    Application for the TTU/HHMI program is available at http://www.ciser.ttu.edu/hhmi/scholar_competition.aspx
    TTU undergraduate students can apply year round , and 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 in late May and early June. Scholars work year round with faculty mentors, up to 15 hours/week in the academic year and up to 30 hours/week in summer, and become an integral part of the CISER seamless community, participating in the a variety of dynamic events and opportunities offered by the TTU/HHMI Science Education Program @CISER.

    Questions? Contact:
    URS/UTS - Julie Isom, Associate Director for Research julie.isom@ttu.edu
    SEdS - Susan Talkmitt, Associate Director for Science Education susan.talkmitt@ttu.edu
    For more information, visit www.ciser.ttu.edu.

  8. Center for Undergraduate Research (CUR)
    The Center serves as a resource for researchers by assisting in identifying faculty mentors interested in developing a research project.  The Center also funds a number of scholars through fellowships, travel, and assistance with research supplies.  Additionally, The Center hosts the annual Texas Tech University Undergraduate Research Conference in coordination with campus partners.The Center is particularly committed to the recruitment, retention, and development of undergraduate researchers at Texas Tech University.

Faculty Member

Research Interests


Robert Baker

Mammalian evolution and systematics. Aspects of the program focus on disease surveillance, and animal-reservoir species, as well as ecotoxicology


Shan Bilimoria

Molecular virology, Apoptosis, and Replication


Robert Bradley

Mammalian systematics, Molecular systematics, Natural history


Charles Cannon

Evolution, ecology, and conservation of Southeast Asian rainforest trees; Comparative genomics of plants


James Carr

Endocrinology, Neuroendocrinology, Behavior, Endocrine disruption, Endocrinology of stress


Ron Chesser

Risk assessment and reconstruction of toxic releases into urban and rural environments; Mathematical and computer-assisted modeling of behavioral ecology and gene dynamics


Nathan Collie

Cell Biology and Endocrinology, Caner, Molecular bioengineering


Lou Densmore

Molecular systematics and Evolution, Population genetics, and Herpetology


Richard Deslippe

Behavior and Ecology of Arthropods


Sandra Diamond

Marine Biology, Fish population dynamics


Lauren Gollahon

Breast and ervical cancer, Development of detection systems, Bioengineering


Lewis Held

Developmental genetics of fruit flies

Scott Holaday

Photosynthesis, Environmental Stress


Randy Jeter

Microbiology, Microbial genetics


Mark McGinley

Ecology, Science education


Nancy McIntyre

Landscape ecology, Community ecology of birds and arthropods


Reynaldo Patino

Ecophysiology, Ecotoxicology, Fisheries, Aquaculture


Carl Phillips

Evolutionary biology of mammals; International programs in nonproliferation of bio-weapons and related national security policy; and WMD-personnel redirection and reconstruction of science infrastructure in Iraq.


Brian Reilly

Immunology, Auto-immunity, Host Defense


Sean Rice

Evolution, Mathematical biology


Chris Rock

Plant functional genomics, Hormonal control of development and stress responses, Computational bioinformatics


Jorge Salazar-Bravo

Evolutionary biology of mammals


Michael San Francisco

Molecular microbiology, Microbial virulence in plants and animals, Bacterial antibiotic resistance, Regulation of gene expression


Kenneth Schmidt

Avian ecology, Behavioral ecology


Richard Strauss

Fish morphology and Development, Biometrics


John Zak


Hong Zhang

Plant molecular biology and Plant biotechnology


Zhixin Xie

Plant biology, small RNAs, Gene regulation