Undergraduate Research Opportunities

As a McCormick undergraduate, you can take part in the kind of unique and forward-looking research that defines Northwestern University and advances our understanding of today’s complex engineering challenges.

Browse this section for information, links, and resources about applying for grants and conducting undergraduate research at McCormick, including:

  • How to Get Started on Research
    Get information about when to begin, how to find a lab, and how to approach professors
  • Frequently Asked Questions
    Explore our undergraduate research FAQs on topics like time commitment, pay, honors, advising, and more
  • Summer Research Programs
    How to apply to a variety of Northwestern, non-Northwestern, and study abroad summer research programs
  • Research Grants & Awards
    How to apply for various research grants and the McCormick Summer Research Award program
  • Peer Advising in Research
    How to connect with a fellow undergraduate in your field who can advise you on the undergraduate research experience at McCormick
  • Responsible Conduct of Research
    Get information about conducting responsible and ethical research through Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training

How to Get Started on Research

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When to Begin

Some students get involved in research as early as their freshman year, although the student's responsibilities may be limited. A background of coursework is helpful, so we generally advise students to start research once they've developed a strong interest in a particular field and will have time to thoroughly commit to a lab.

Students often begin to think about doing research in their junior year by taking 399 Independent Study.

Advisers may be more willing to take you on after you have completed more of the relevant coursework. However, underclass students may also be attractive candidates, as they could potentially commit two to three years of research.

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How to Find a Lab that Suits Your Research Interests

Finding a lab that best suits your research interests can be difficult. While it can take time for undergraduates to understand what research entails, here are some tips for finding the right research lab for you:

  • Browse the research sections of the departmental websites. This can provide some understanding of the broad research goals and the laboratories working in those fields.
  • Visit individual laboratory websites, which often provide understandable summaries of their research.
  • To get the clearest idea of what is done in that particular lab, look through the most recent publications listed on the lab website.
  • Pay attention to departmental news that focuses on research breakthroughs and accomplishments by faculty.
  • Watch the bulletin boards around the “Tech” building and surrounding science buildings for current research posters and flyers. It’s always useful to have an idea of the research work conducted by your professors.
  • Remember, you can also target labs outside your department. For example, BME students often work in the Feinberg School of Medicine and EE students often work in BME labs.

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How to Approach Professors for Research Opportunities

Once you have found several professors (i.e., principle investigators) you are interested in working for, send each one a personalized email describing your objective and interest. Do not send bulk emails.

Showing a clear understanding of their research conveys that you have read up on their work and are interested in joining the lab. Again, reading publications will drastically improve your understanding of the lab's research.

Here are two guides to help students approach professors in an appropriate way for research opportunities.