Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When Should I Start Looking For Research Opportunities?

A: We recommend that students seek research during or after their sophomore year. There may be exceptions, such as a student that has conducted extensive research while in high school. Students apply once they have their schedule confirmed for the semester they are seeking research. If the student is not placed for the semester and is still interested in research, they will need to submit a new application so that their schedule and grades are current.


Q: Am I guaranteed a research position?

A: We will refer you to faculty research mentors based on your areas of interest. Every effort will be made by the office to place you, but placement is not guaranteed, as we rely on the availability of faculty mentors and the level of responsiveness and commitment from the student that is seeking research.


Q: What are the various types of research?

A:  Clinical Research:  Deal with data, not the patients. Generate data, see correlation, turnover data set;
Community Based Research:  Getting information with questionnaires, talking to people, survey work;
Lab Research:  Work in a wet lab setting.

Q: Can I Earn Credit For Doing Research?

A: Many students can earn course credit for their research experience. Different research mentor departments have special courses listed as independent research under faculty. Before you register for a research credit course, meet with the faculty member to obtain her/his approval to enroll in the class. If you register for one of these courses you will arrange your research hours with your research mentor. The research course can count as credit towards your major. If credit is an important aspect of your participation as a student researcher, you should discuss this with your advisor and faculty member. She/he will determine the requirements to obtain credit. Email the Office of Undergraduate Research to advise us that you are taking research for credit at


Q: How long will it take for me to be placed?

A: Research placement is not guaranteed. It depends on many variables such as your availability, your responsiveness, your experience, your commitment level, and your grades. It also helps when you are focused on what type of research you prefer, rather than just “any” research.


Q: How can I help in the process?


• Check and respond to your email regularly (that means AT LEAST once a day - even on the weekends.)
• Get a “grown-up” email address that uses some version of your name (now is the time to drop the “angelface99” or “monstertruck_99” email address.)
• Research positions are more competitive now than in the past. The bar has been raised. Find out what research area interests you. Go to the Research Opportunities for UM Undergrads page and visit the on campus sites listed. Click on the Undergraduate Research Mentors section to read about the research that some our mentors are working on.
• Go to PubMed to look at some papers about the research subject area of interest and especially those by the researcher of interest.
• Be clear about your available time at the lab. It will not work if the lab project is something you have to squeeze into a busy schedule.


Q: Where are the labs located?

A: Although research is available across the University, most research takes place at the Miller School of Medicine Campus. It is a 20 minute metro rail ride from the University Station to the Civic Center station. Please make sure you consider the travel time when determining your availability.


Q: How many hours do I have to work in the lab?

A: This depends on your research mentor and your availability. The minimum time you should spend in a lab is a 2 hour period, and a minimum of 6 hours per week. Depending on the researcher’s project, however, the time required will vary. Make sure you discuss this during your interview and that you are able to work the hours that you commit to.


Q: How will I be contacted for an interview?

A: The Office of Undergraduate Research (UGR) will refer you to appropriate mentors based on the availability and interests you stated on your online application. We then contact viable mentors and forward them your application, resume, and unofficial transcripts. Once the mentor reviews your documents, they inform our office whether an interview is granted. Our office then emails you the contact information for the mentor so that you may arrange a meeting date and time.


Q: How do I dress for the interview?


• Some research mentors do not expect you to dress up for the interview if you are going to work in a lab, or if you just came from class. Some areas of the medical campus are more conservative. If you will be working with patients and study participants, appropriate dress for the setting is essential, so business casual would be appropriate (no suits, please. Pants and a shirt for men. For ladies, pants, a skirt or dress in a modest length.) You may ask the person scheduling the interview about the setting and recommended dress for the interview. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and dress business casual.
• DO look crisp, neat, clean, and presentable.
• Anything that reveals too much flesh, underwear, is too tight, or is sloppy is NOT appropriate in a work/lab setting. Dress modestly.
• NO beachwear (flip flops, shorts, tank top, tee shirts.)


Q: How do I stand out on the interview?


• Learn about your research mentor’s program! Find their website and read about their research and read any articles they have published.
• Go to PubMed to look at some papers about the research subject area of interest and especially those by the researcher of interest.
• Be specific in discussing your interests with some depth in the area of research of the interviewer.
• Have questions/comments about what you’ve read. Express an honest interest in their research. Why are you interested in their lab? Your interest should be in the research, not just because it will look good on your medical school application.
• Come to any interview with an open mind and be honest with your opinions and answers. Don’t try to signal you know something you don’t.
• DO ask the potential mentor whether he/she has trained any undergraduate student before. Take the time to meet the other graduate/undergraduate students, staff or postdoctoral fellows in the lab. One wants to work in a laboratory that has good chemistry or working relationship among staff.
• Be on time. Make sure you obtain the correct address and know exactly how to arrive at your destination. If running late, call the research mentor and notify him/her.
• Turn your phone off before the interview and before any meeting with faculty.
• Be prepared to talk about your qualifications and how they fit the position. Bring your resume (including prior work experience/research) and a copy of the courses you took in college and the grades (unofficial transcript is ok, but must have the course titles, not just Bio 293 for e.g.) If your high school record is relevant (especially young undergrad students) include info on that (e.g. SAT, GPA, science courses taken in high school/AP, research experience).
• Follow up with an email and thank the research mentor for the interview. This shows that you are interested in the position and appreciative of their time. This is also a good opportunity to ask any follow-up questions that didn’t come up during the meeting. If you are not interested in the position, email and kindly let them know.
• Need more help with interview skills? Visit the Toppel Career Center located at the Gables Campus.


Q: I’ve decided to accept the position, what happens now?


• Do not accept a position if you are unsure or have doubts. There is no obligation to accept a position. Make sure that it will be a right fit before you accept so that you will follow through on your commitment to the research mentor. Communication is key. If you do accept a position and then change your mind, do not hesitate to contact the mentor immediately. It takes valuable time and resources to interview and then train a new student and it is disappointing when a student changes their mind, particularly after starting their research.
• Email the Office of Undergraduate Research when you have confirmed your placement so that we may note your records. Give us the mentor’s name and start date. Our office will then email your faculty mentor and you the approval for you to begin research along with additional details concerning your placement.


Q: Once I get the research position, how do I succeed?


• Remember that you are the most junior member of the research team and that this means that you need to go the extra mile on all aspects of the research.
• Always be on time.
• Convey a strong work ethic and a high level of personal organization.
• Show enthusiasm. A commitment to the lab and research is crucial. Exude effort, persistence, and patience. Most of all, effort.
• Minimize using the lab computers for checking email or surfing the web.
• If you are bored or finish early, check with the faculty member to identify literature to study. Even better, learn how to do literature searches, read scientific papers relevant to the topic and propose new experiments.
• COMMUNICATE with your mentors in the lab (whether they be the PI, a postdoc or a graduate student.)
• Check and respond to your email regularly (that means AT LEAST once a day (even on the weekends.)
• Labs require closed-toe shoes. Adhere by any dress and safety requirements of the lab. Anything that reveals too much flesh, underwear, is too tight, or is sloppy is NOT appropriate in a work/lab setting. Dress modestly.


Q: Is There Funding Available For Me?

A: If you are a minority or disadvantaged student, see Funding Opportunities for UM Minorities for details on available funding.


Q: Do UM Students Have The Opportunity To Present Their Research?

A: The opportunities to present your research either as a paper, or a poster presentation are numerous. In fact, there are various opportunities year-round either at workshops, panels and/or conferences. Some of these are the UM Research, Creativity, & Innovation Forum, The Leadership Alliance National Symposium (LANS), and The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Check the Conferences, Presentations & Seminars section on our web site for announcements about important research conferences and calls for papers. Our website also offers information on Presentations and Research Papers.


Q: After research, how do I get a reference letter from the researcher or faculty?

A: DO NOT send him/her an email that reads like a text message. It should be a formal request written in formal language. This is a first step in getting into graduate school or medical school and how you present yourself at this point does matter.