Research is independent study and discovery in a field of interest. In the sciences, research is usually conducted in a laboratory led by a Principal Investigator (PI) – this is the faculty member who runs a research project. Research addresses a hypothesis, or scientific question. New student researchers typically join an ongoing project in a faculty’s lab and are often trained & supervised by postdoctoral scholars & graduate students.


  • Conducting independent study complements your studies, your academic goals, and your professional goals
  • UCLA is a world-class research institution with prestigious faculty conducting original research in their fields. Take advantage of the resources available to you
  • Find out if a career in research is right for you
  • Get valuable research experience to make you a competitive applicant for graduate or professional school
  • Research can serve as valuable work experience to make you a competitive applicant for your future career
  • Earn university credit and funding for your research
  • Build meaningful relationships with and receive mentorship from faculty and lab members

Conducting research as an undergraduate is an excellent way to gain experiences and skills that will benefit you both academically and professionally. In addition to exploring your areas of interest, undergraduate research develops skills in collaborative learning and critical thinking. For students interested in pursuing graduate or professional school, undergraduate research is a way of expanding your education outside of the classroom and better preparing yourself for the rigors of graduate study. Even if you are unsure about graduate studies, conducting undergraduate research is a way of exploring your research interests and testing the suitability of a research career to your interests.


Some questions to ask yourself as you plan your research are:

  • What subjects am I interested in and passionate about?
  • How much time can I commit to research?
  • Will I need financial support to conduct research throughout the summer and academic year?
  • What do I want to gain from my research experience?
  • How can I best prepare myself academically and professionally to do research?
  • What courses should I take that will complement the work I do?
  • What safety courses will I need to take to do research in my field or lab?

The better you plan your academic coursework, the better you will be able to organize your time for research. Whatever your future professional and academic plans are, gaining experience in research will enhance your application and your preparedness for more self-directed research.

Once you have evaluated your research interests and organized your time, the next step is finding a faculty mentor. As part of a collaborative research team, you will need to find the right position both for you and your potential research lab.

You can also take part in UC Online’s ‘Introduction to Research’ class available through the Cross-Campus Enrollment System (CCES). This introductory course will help you understand what research means and provide guidance in how to find a research position.


Do you have a question about getting involved in research? Send us a message through Message Center (Topic: Beginning Undergraduate Research)!