GET THE FAQ ON UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH
How can I find a mentor and get involved with undergraduate research?
There are a number of ways you can become involved in undergraduate research.
The Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences sponsors the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE), a year-long research program that begins in the summer. We accept applications once a year in mid-spring and place students with mentors soon thereafter. Information on the PURE research program can be found at: med.ucf.edu/biomed/academics/student-research/mm-pure
A Department course offering provides a one semester research experience: MCB 4920C Group Effort Applied Research (GEAR). Groups of 8-15 students receive concept-based lecture material and are trained in the appropriate lab techniques. Teams of 2-3 students are then given overlapping sets of experimental samples to work with. Additional instruction in molecular biology concepts and techniques are provided as the project advances. GEAR is taught by different faculty members, each with their own original research topic. However, the three credit GEAR course is not offered every semester. Check the Department course listings for availability.
You can find information on other undergraduate research programs at the website for the UCF Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR): our.ucf.edu. During the academic year, OUR also hosts seminars on how to get involved with undergraduate research. During the summer, OUR hosts a Summer Research Academy (sra.ucf.edu). This is a three day event designed to introduce students to the research environment and opportunities at UCF.
The Student Undergraduate Research Council (https://our.ucf.edu/current/leadership-opportunities) can provide peer advice on finding a faculty mentor and working in a lab. Drop-in hours for one-on-one peer advising are also available at the OUR office; check our.ucf.edu or email email@example.com for more details.
You can also find a research position on your own. Look at the faculty pages on the Department website (med.ucf.edu/biomed/burnett-school-of-biomedical-sciences-research/divisions) and find the topic that interests you. Faculty research can be roughly divided into four areas: infectious diseases, cancer biology, cardiovascular disease and neuroscience. Contact the relevant faculty members by email to see if an open position is available. In this correspondence it will be helpful to provide personal information such as your GPA and upper division course work, research interests, career goals, and how much time you can devote to lab work (including availability during the summer).
Many faculty members are reluctant to sponsor research projects for students they do not personally know. So, a good way to secure a research position is to stand out in the classroom. Ask questions, show enthusiasm, perform well, and then ask the faculty member if there is an open research position in his/her lab.
Many faculty members are located at the Lake Nona campus. Since not all students can commute to Lake Nona for 2 or 3 extended blocks of time during the week, there are generally more undergraduate research opportunities available at Lake Nona than on the main campus. Lake Nona faculty can be identified on their Burnett School webpage by the BBS building address.
There are also faculty members in the Biology Department, Physics Department, Chemistry Department, and NanoScience Technology Center who conduct research closely related to biomedical science. They can also serve as mentors for students majoring in Burnett School degree programs.
As an alternative to the standard undergraduate research experience, The Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences offers PCB 4943: Peer Instruction and Laboratory Occupational Training (PILOT): med.ucf.edu/biomed/academics/student-research/pilot. This is a teaching assistantship for BSC 3403C Quantitative Biological Methods. PILOT students also perform original laboratory experiments in addition to classroom preparation and instruction. Students who earned an A in Quantitative Biological Methods are eligible for PILOT. Contact Dr. Robert Borgon for more details.
It would also help to think outside the box and explore off-campus opportunities. Research and training opportunities in the Orlando area include:
Clinical Research Internship Program at Florida Hospital
Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute at Lake Nona
University of Florida – College of Pharmacy, Lake Nona Campus
Orange County Internships in Biology and Microbiology
Biotechnology and Life Sciences Internships at Disney’s Epcot and Animal Kingdom Parks
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bureau of Diagnostic Laboratories
Sanofi Pasteur VaxDesign Corporation
Representatives from many of these institutions have given on-campus presentations for the Career Opportunities in the Biomedical Sciences seminar series. Unless your experience is managed through the Office of Experiential Learning (explearning.ucf.edu), you are not likely to receive credit for off-campus volunteer positions. However, you will have the opportunity to gain practical, hands-on training that will allow you to apply your conceptual knowledge and technical skills.
When should I apply for an undergraduate research position?
In general, faculty members are looking for students who have completed some lab and upper division classes but still have 2 years before graduation. Those students have some relevant background from classes, but they can also spend a good amount of time in their host lab.
Summer is a good time to begin a research project, because you should have more free time available to spend in the lab over the summer. This is also important to the faculty sponsor.
Is it difficult to find an undergraduate research position?
Many students are interested in projects, and there are relatively few openings available, so be prepared for some negative responses. It may take a while to find an open position.
I am in my last semester; how do I find a lab for a short-term research experience?
Substantial time, effort, and resources are required to train an undergraduate researcher. It can typically take an entire semester for a student to learn the appropriate techniques for data generation. A one semester research experience would thus provide minimal benefit to the sponsoring lab. As such, faculty are reluctant to sponsor research experiences that last less than 2-3 semesters.
MCB 4920C Group Effort Applied Research (GEAR) provides a one-semester, curricular research experience. Groups of 8-15 students receive concept-based lecture material and are trained in the appropriate lab techniques. Teams of 2-3 students are then given overlapping sets of experimental samples to work with. Additional instruction in molecular biology concepts and techniques are provided as the project advances. GEAR is taught by different faculty members, each with their own original research topic. However, the three credit GEAR course is not offered every semester. Check the Department course listings for availability.
As an alternative to the standard undergraduate research experience, The Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences offers PCB 4943: Peer Instruction and Laboratory Occupational Training (PILOT; med.ucf.edu/biomed/academics/student-research/pilot). This is a teaching assistantship for BSC 3403C Quantitative Biological Methods. PILOT students also perform original laboratory experiments in addition to classroom preparation and instruction. Students who earned an A in Quantitative Biological Methods are eligible for PILOT. Contact Dr. Borgon for more details.
Can I shadow a scientist?
Research requires hands-on training, so not much is gained from shadowing activities in a lab setting. Student shadowing does, however, require time and effort on the part of the sponsoring lab. Very few, if any, faculty members will host shadowing activities for these reasons.
What level of commitment will my research project require?
You and your faculty mentor will determine the level of commitment required for the project. However, as a rule of thumb, you should expect to commit at least 10 hours per week to your project. This effort will likely require 2 or 3 extended blocks of time. In most cases, you cannot get any substantial lab work done in just 1 or 2 hours. You should therefore plan to set aside a block of 4-5 hours at least twice a week for your project.
Can I get credit for work on my project?
The following research-related programs are each taken for credit:
Honors-in-the-Major (2-4 classes, 3 credit hrs each): https://honors.ucf.edu/honors-in-the-major
PURE (3 classes, 1 credit hr each): med.ucf.edu/biomed/academics/student-research/mm-pure
PILOT (1 class, 3 credit hrs): med.ucf.edu/biomed/academics/student-research/pilot
Students may replace one of their BSBS 3-unit restricted elective credits with Honors-in-the-Major, PURE, PILOT, or GEAR upon successful completion of the program/course. Students can enroll in as many of these programs/courses as they wish, but only one will be allowed to substitute for a regular restricted elective credit. The additional research-related credits may count as part of the 120 required for graduation or as upper division 48 hour requirement.
Students engaged in an independent, non-programmatic research project are encouraged to enroll in MCB 4912 Undergraduate Research. The proper number of units for registration, and the performance expectations for school credit, will be determined by the faculty mentor.
There is also a 0 credit hour option for undergraduate research: (https://our.ucf.edu/current/courses). Tuition will not be charged for this option if you are enrolled in other courses at the time, and it will not contribute towards your GPA. However, it will appear on your transcript. This provides an official recognition for your effort. It also allows your faculty advisor to receive credit for mentoring, and it provides the University with a means to determine how many students are involved in research. All students are therefore strongly urged to enroll for the 0 credit hour option if not committed to other coursework for the research experience (MCB 4912, etc.). However, students cannot enroll on their own: you must work with your faculty mentor to complete the enrollment form.
Can I get paid for work on my project?
Faculty members spend considerable time, effort, and resources to train undergraduate researchers. Since this is primarily a learning experience, most faculty will not pay undergraduate researchers. During the summer, however, some faculty may pay their undergraduates in order to keep them in the lab rather than at another job. The issue of payment is ultimately decided by the individual student-faculty relationship. If you do receive payment, the UCF Undergraduate Research Initiative can help your faculty mentor defray the cost of your salary.
If you are eligible for Work Study, your research experience can be applied to that program. Contact Allison Connally in the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences office (HPA II room 335) for more details.
For an alternative source of payment, UCF sponsors a number of grants and programs that support undergraduate research. See the Office of Undergraduate Research website for more details: our.ucf.edu
How can I learn about undergraduate research that has been performed on campus?
Undergraduate research across all disciplines is published in a reviewed on-campus journal, The UCF Undergraduate Research Journal (urj.ucf.edu).
The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) also provides numerous opportunities to learn about on-campus research, including:
- Peer advising
Drop-in hours for one-on-one advising are available at the OUR office; check
our.ucf.edu or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
- Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence (SURE)
- Summer Research Academy
Finally, a campus STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) program has created teams of science and visual arts majors to design paintings, posters, and other media which describe undergraduate research projects. These works can be viewed online at: icubed.ucf.edu/steam.php
How can I find a summer research experience?
The National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsors numerous summer research experiences at colleges and Universities across the country. Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) programs are designed to recruit off-campus students and to provide those students with an immersive experience involving technical training and career preparation: nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/reu_search.cfm
The Office of Undergraduate Research provides additional information on REUs at: https://our.ucf.edu/current/overview. OUR also hosts workshops on summer research experiences: https://our.ucf.edu/about/calendar
In the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, there are not many opportunities for summer-only research projects. Substantial time, energy, and resources are required to train an undergraduate researcher. Most faculty members accordingly expect their undergraduate mentees to spend at least a full year in the lab.
I am from another University but will be in Orlando for the summer. Are there research positions available for me?
The Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences educates more than 2,000 undergraduates majoring in either Biotechnology or Molecular Biology and Microbiology. About 100 students are engaged in undergraduate research. Many more UCF students desire a research position, but there are no open positions for them. Because of this supply-and-demand issue, few faculty are willing to sponsor summer projects for non-UCF students who are not affiliated with an institutional research program.
I am post-baccalaureate. Can I volunteer in a lab to gain more experience?
For liability reasons, lab personnel must either be employees or students. Thus, non-student volunteers are not allowed in the lab.