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The Path to Becoming an Undergraduate Researcher

Guidance on the process to seeking undergraduate research opportunities in the VCU Department of Chemistry

Wraegen Williams

on 17 July 2013

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Transcript of The Path to Becoming an Undergraduate Researcher

THE Path to BECOMING AN Undergraduate ResearchER
What can chemistry majors research?
A chemistry major may pursue research in any chemistry-related endeavor for which he or she has a mentor.

Each student begins by carefully considering his or her interests, passions, and academic and career goals.

Interests should lead a student to investigate potential research mentors who are conducting research the student would like to pursue.
Research Potential Mentors
Mentors play an
role in guiding undergraduates through the research experience. In fact, it is impossible to pursue research for
academic credit (CHEM 392 & 492)
without a faculty mentor. Therefore, students begin their research experience by identifying potential mentors.

Once you know what you want to learn more about, use one of the following strategies to identify potential mentors.
Contact Potential Mentors
It is perfectly acceptable to use email to make initial contact with faculty members.

We recommend reviewing and implementing the following professional approach:

Meeting Potential Mentors
Once you have set up an appointment to meet with a potential mentor, make certain to be respectful of the faculty member's time.

Should you have to cancel or reschedule the appointment, please contact the faculty member as early as possible.

When you meet with a mentor, you should keep several things in mind:
A mentor agrees to invite you in their lab:
pursuing research for academic credit.
Chemistry majors can pursue research for academic credit by securing a research mentor and gaining permission to enroll in either:
CHEM 392
CHEM 492

VCU Department of chemistry
Search for your research interest on the VCU homepage

Review faculty profiles on departmental web sites.
Generally, faculty members list
their research interests (publications, lab page links, CVs, etc.) on their departmental web profiles, which can help students better identify individual faculty they would like to meet.

*Note: the information may not
be up to date*
Talk to your advisor, talk to your professors, talk to your TAs, talk to your classmates, talk to your friends. Find out what they're doing and who they're doing it with (research, that is).
•Use your VCU email account, as this is always preferred
•Make certain to include a professional salutation (i.e. “Dear Professor or Dr._________”)and text (i.e. no text lingo)
•Make certain that you clearly identify:
o your name
o your class year
o your V number
o why you are writing
o your desire to meet with the mentor to discuss his/her research
o a week’s worth of specific days and times when you can meet with the faculty member (
be sure to check the faculty member’s posted office hours first
Remember, the goal of contacting any potential mentor is to schedule an appointment to meet, not to simply exchange emails.
Be patient!!

Give faculty enough time to respond but be prepared to send a second (or third) email.

Remain persistent enough to follow up as necessary,
but do not become annoying
The best questions you can ask are: "What, in layman's terms, do you research?"; "How do you do that type of research?"; and "Why do you do this research?"
You are there to listen as much as you are there to speak.

Research mentors have a passion for their research, which they can articulate to you.
But you must be willing to listen, ask questions, and seek to better understand what they research.
Learning why and how a research mentor studies their problem of interest is as important as the research interest.
Mentoring is about academic, professional and personal development. To best mentor someone you have to know their goals, in the immediate and the long term.

Be prepared to discuss your goals and ask how your involvement in the research can help you achieve those goals. Bring a copy of your up-to-date resume and inform them that you would like to do research for academic credit.
When you meet with a potential mentor, ask, “Do you currently have or have you had undergraduate students pursue research in your lab?”

What are mentor's expectations for mentees? What level of commitment would he or she expect from you? Successful mentoring requires commitment from both parties.

Responsibility does not lie with the mentor alone.
CHEM 392 – Directed Study
An independent investigation of chemical problems through readings and experimentation under the supervision of a research mentor.
• Pre-requisites: CHEM 101 and 102; CHEZ 101 and 102 with a minimum grade of C, and Entering Research Workshop.
• Variable hours; 1-4 credits. May be repeated for a maximum total of 8 credits; only 3 credits are applicable to the chemistry major.
• Minimum 3 hours of supervised activity per week per credit hour.
• Written interim and final reports are required.
• Not applicable towards Professional Chemist with Honors concentration.
CHEM 492 – Independent Study

An independent investigation of chemical problems through literature search and laboratory experimentation.
• Pre-requisites: CHEM 101 and 102; CHEZ 101 and 102 with a minimum grade of C, and Entering Research Workshop.
• Variable hours; 1-4 credits. Maximum of 4 credits per semester not to exceed a maximum total of 8 credits.
• Minimum 3 hours of supervised activity per week per credit hour.
• Written interim and final reports are required in addition to a poster presentation.
• Attendance at “Poster Creation” Workshop and one additional discussion session.
Authorization may be granted upon completion of the permission to enroll form and a 1-2 page proposal detailing the work in which the student will be engaged.
For further information and assistance, please contact
Wraegen Willilams, PhD
Full transcript