Joining a research lab is less like registering for a class and more like finding a job. While our Center does not directly place students into research labs/groups, we do offer resources to help students navigate the process of finding faculty to work with. We strongly encourage all students interested in research to attend our “Getting into Research” workshop. These workshops are led by our experienced Graduate Student Mentors and are offered multiple times each quarter. Click here to find an upcoming workshop.


Getting involved in research is an important decision that will shape your undergraduate experience. The right research experience can greatly enhance your education and further your preparation for industry, business, and graduate/professional school. UCLA is a world-class research institution with over a thousand faculty performing original research across all disciplines. While students commonly do research with faculty in their home department or a closely related department, students may work with faculty in any of UCLA’s 150+ academic departments.

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. Review courses you have previously taken, revisit assigned readings, and talk to your professors and TAs about your interests and what type of work is currently being done in those fields.

**NOTE: If your major or minor has a research requirement, you may be restricted to working with faculty in certain departments to satisfy those requirements. Meet with a student affairs officer or academic counselor in your department to learn more.


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 faculty members to contact and research opportunities to apply to 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 listing all current faculty in the department and a short blurb about their research. Most websites have faculty profiles with their contact info and more about their research. Some faculty also have lab websites with in-depth information about their current research and recently published papers. When you find a faculty member whose research interests you, record their contact information. Explore departments in the:
  2. Undergraduate Research Portal: The 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 student researchers 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.


If you have identified a research opportunity on the Undergraduate Research Portal, follow the application instructions in the listing.

If you are contacting faculty directly, we recommend emailing them a cover letter and CV. For general guidance on writing a professional and well-formatted email, refer to this video.

Your cover letter will comprise the body of your email and should clearly & concisely:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Explain your interest and enthusiasm in their research
  • Identify your goals and how working with them will help you progress towards those goals
  • 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.

These resources are provided as examples and need not be utilized as templates. There are many ways to create an effective cover letter and CV. We encourage you to explore various approaches in order to develop materials that present your unique background and skill sets most effectively.

UCLA Career Center Resources for CVs and Cover Letters:


If you are invited to 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?


For questions about getting started in undergraduate research, contact us through Message Center (Topic: Beginning Undergraduate Research).