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Undergraduate research

Student doing research

Branching out

As one of the premier research universities in the nation, UW-Madison offers you an unparalleled opportunity to enhance your education as an undergraduate researcher in a professor’s laboratory. You’ll likely work alongside graduate students, postdoctoral scholars and even other undergrads—and you might earn college credit or simply receive an hourly wage.

As an undergrad researcher, you’ll learn lab safety and operations, research methods, and how teams work together to accomplish a common goal. You’ll gain exposure to new ideas and technologies and expand your knowledge of engineering. You might be part of game-changing advances that you and your colleagues describe in research publications or decide to patent. All of these experiences, and more, can also help prepare you for advanced studies in engineering and other fields, or to contribute specialized knowledge in the workplace.

Uncovering the opportunities

Just like the process of conducting research, finding the right position for you might take a little investigating, but in the long run, it’ll definitely be worth it. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Check directly with your professors to see if they offer undergraduate research experiences, or know of others who do.
  • You can also drop by your department’s main offices to find out which professors in your major hire undergraduates.
  • Check out Handshake for opportunities, or visit the university’s student jobs website.
  • Depending on their current projects, engineering research centers also hire undergraduates.
  • Access directories of faculty and staff by department to search for faculty research of interest to you.
  • Use the Wisconsin Discovery Portal to locate the right UW-Madison researcher for your collaboration and research needs.
  • Beyond the college, check out these UW-Madison resources here and here for finding and funding research positions.

Tracking the results

Beyond picking up a little extra cash and experience to add to your resume, you can participate in research for credit. If you go that route, you’ll need to get approval—generally from your professor—before you start. And of course, you’ll want to make sure the rest of your education stays on track, too. Here are a couple of pathways to earning credit for your research.

Independent Study Projects

Depending upon the project topic and scope, you could receive credit for proposing and developing an independent research project. If you’re interested in conducting independent research, talk directly with your engineering instructors or stop by an engineering department office.

Engineering Honors in Research Programs

Individual engineering departments offer honors programs in which you can plan and conduct independent engineering research projects under the mentorship of a professor. To learn more about whether you’re a good fit for and meet the qualifications to pursue an honors in research program, check out Guide and then find a professor you want to work with.

Discovering their passion

You might decide to do research as one way to help answer questions that have always interested you. You might use research experience as an entry point into an entirely different area from yours. Whatever your motivation, meet some fellow undergrads who can give you a little inspiration.