Getting Started in Research
Finding a research mentor is a lot like finding a job—you need to “research” potential mentors, showcase your skill-set, and get offered a position.
Step 1: Explore your research interests
This is the most important step—finding the right research project will help you develop your skill-set for the next step in your career. Whether you are developing your own research idea or are seeking to work on a faculty member’s research project, you first need to explore your interests.
Below are some ideas to get you started:
- What classes have I most enjoyed?
- What articles and books do you find interesting? Check out the ASU Library research guide for your major.
- Review Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering research pages – review research projects, faculty bio pages, and other ASU department and school research pages.
- When people ask you why you chose your major, what do you say?
Step 3: Prepare to talk with faculty
Once you have identified a faculty mentor you’d be interested in working with, learn all that you can about the project and the subject matter.
- Read faculty bio pages, CVs, research center websites, Fulton faculty/staff newsletter to learn about faculty research projects and awards, professional journals related to your major and the research project, and review your Fulton School research websites and other ASU websites.
- Update your resume to include transferable skills (prior research experience, leadership, relevant coursework, etc.), and contact the Engineering Career Center for assistance
Step 4: Contact Faculty Members
Many faculty are willing to discuss possible positions in their lab, especially for motivated and prepared students.
- If you are using email, be concise. Include your resume, academic transcript, and why you are interested in working in their lab. Show how you are prepared to contribute.
- If you would like to meet in person, stop by their office hours or email the faculty member to set an appointment. Come prepared with your resume and be on time. Respect the faculty member’s time and commitments.
- Potential projects: ask if you will be able to join lab meetings, as well as what your roles will be for both
- The number of hours per week, and deliverables required for the work
- If this is a research project for academic credit, ask about the grading policies.
Key points on how to construct a professional email:
- Clear Subject line: Seeking Research Opportunity, Prospective Honors Undergraduate Researcher, and/or interested in examining Fulton Funkitude Project.
- Tell the contactee why you chose them: Perhaps you met them at a student organization.
- Do your homework: This could be that you read their research paper online and found that interesting.
- Highlight uncommon commonalities: If you have something in common with them, highlight that. Don’t make it up.
- Request is specific (short but sweet): Make sure to mention your availability, and ask when their office hours are.
- Express gratitude: Always thank the faculty mentor for their time, and ask if any additional information is needed on your part.
- Provide more background information: Help faculty see what skills you have to offer and your “train-ability,” which could be your resume and academic transcript.
Step 2: Identify possible research mentors
Here are a few suggestions to get started:
- Ask fellow students if they are involved in research and which faculty member they are working with. Ask faculty if they have any research positions available, or if they can refer you to other faculty.
- Review prior Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative Symposium abstract books to find faculty members that have worked with FURI students in the past.You can also see abstracts from Spring 2018 students and onward here.
- Also, review the Fulton Schools’ faculty directories; faculty are often tagged with their research interests:
- School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering (ECEE)
- School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy (SEMTE)
- School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering (SBHSE)
- School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering (SCIDSE)
- School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment (SSEBE)
- The Polytechnic School
- If you are a Barrett Honors College student, ask your faculty honors advisor for referrals
- Review the current research opportunities postings.
- Look for research aide or lab aide positions on the ASU Student Employment website.
The office of Student Engagement does not match students to faculty members. The experience you gain networking with faculty to find the best fit is great practice for job/internship searches!
Step 5: Make a decision
Before committing to a research project, ask yourself if it is the right project for you. Will this experience help with your professional goals? If the experience doesn’t seem like a good fit for you, graciously decline the position and find a position that meets your expectations.
Contact the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative office at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, or if you need advice on next steps.