Getting involved in a research project is not like signing up for a class. Instead, it is much more like finding a job. All undergraduates are responsible for finding their own faculty mentor and research project. However, our center provides resources to help students obtain research positions. Our most comprehensive resources are our “Entering STEM Research & SRP-99” workshops. These workshops are led by experienced Graduate Student Mentors and are offered multiple times per quarter throughout the year. These workshops review much of the information listed here.

STEP 1. IDENTIFY YOUR RESEARCH INTERESTS

Becoming involved in research is one of the most important decisions that will shape your undergraduate experience. The right research experience can greatly enhance your education and further your preparation for industry, business, or graduate/professional schools. UCLA is a world-class research institution with over a thousand faculty performing original research across all disciplines and you are not restricted to research within your home department or major.

You should first consider what type of research you are interested in pursuing. Make a list of subjects and topics that interest you and that you would want to commit time to exploring. Review courses you have previously taken, revisit assigned readings, and talk to your TA’s and professors about your interests and what type of work is currently being done in those fields.

Check with your Department Counselor to see if your major has a research requirement. If it does, you may be restricted to working with pre-approved faculty to satisfy this requirement.

STEP 2. MAKE A LIST OF 5-10 POTENTIAL FACULTY & OPPORTUNITIES

Once you have an idea of the area in which you would like to do research, you should compile a list of at least 5-10 potential faculty and research opportunities from the following resources:

  1. Department Websites: Visit the department websites relevant to the subjects and fields of interest you identified. Each department website has a faculty directory with more information about their lab’s current research. Some faculty have independent lab websites with in-depth information about their current research goals and recently published papers. Record their contact information.
  2. Undergraduate Research Portal: Undergraduate Research Portal can be found on MyUCLA under the “Academics” tab. This is a platform where faculty from across campus post research opportunities they are actively recruiting for. The opportunities posted here are not comprehensive of all opportunities at UCLA so do not be discouraged if you don’t see a listing that interests you. Record the contact information and application instructions.
  3. Graduate Programs in Bioscience (GPB): GPB faculty are current mentors for graduate students and represent a variety of research interests across campus. Their experience as mentors and their familiarity with graduate programs make them excellent mentors for undergraduates. See Graduate Programs in Bioscience (GPB) website.

The reason you want to reach out to at least 5-10 faculty and opportunities is because this process is just like finding a job. You may not get a response from everyone you reach out to. You may also receive declines. Be persistent and prepare options! Every student who has wanted a research position has eventually secured one.

STEP 3. CONTACT FACULTY & APPLY TO RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES

If you have identified a Research Opportunity on the Undergraduate Research Portal, follow the application instructions in the posting.

If you are planning on contacting Faculty directly, we recommend emailing them a cover letter and CV. Your cover letter should comprise the body of your email and should clearly & concisely:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Explain your interest and enthusiasm in their lab’s work
  • Identify your goals and how working in their lab will help you progress towards them
  • Request an interview to further discuss a potential research opportunity (include your general availability and a potential start date)
  • Include your contact information (email & phone)

As an attachment to your email, include your curriculum vitae (CV). A CV is similar to a resume but is a more comprehensive document outlining your qualifications. Be sure to include:

  • Relevant coursework – you may want to include a short description of techniques/concepts mastered.
  • Relevant work history & experience
  • Leadership experience (on/off campus) that demonstrates organizational skills, independent thinking, etc.)
  • Honors, awards or distinctions (include name of award, granting college/department, and monetary value if appropriate)

Anticipate that at this stage, your CV should be 1-2 pages in length. For help refining your CV or cover letter, we recommend students visit the UCLA Writing Center  or UCLA Career Center . Both centers offer appointments where professionals can meet one-on-one students.

If you don’t hear back from a specific faculty you emailed or research opportunity you applied to, send a polite follow-up email 1-2 weeks after your initial email. You should not drop-in to a faculty’s lab or office unannounced.

Click here to view a sample cover letter.

Click here to view a sample CV.

STEP 4. PREPARE FOR AN INTERVIEW

If you are selected for an interview, make sure you are on time and that you have questions to ask regarding the research project and the laboratory environment, such as:

  • Who will be supervising and training me?
  • How is the project structured?
  • What techniques and equipment will I be using?
  • What safety training(s) do I need to complete?
  • What is the expected time commitment? Are hours flexible during exam season?
  • How long or short term of a commitment would be expected of me? (e.g. quarter-to-quarter, 1 year minimum, etc.)
  • Are there any additional obligations (e.g. lab meetings) that I would be expected to attend?
  • How many people are currently working in the lab?

CONTACT US

MyUCLA Message Center