Skip to main content

What Is Undergraduate Research?

Research is not just something your professors do. It’s not the sole pursuit of graduate students, nor is it limited to certain disciplines. When AU says "research," we mean independent, professional-level work. The term "research" is shorthand for the research, scholarship, creative, and professional work conducted by undergraduates in every major. Your opportunities at AU are expansive. Whether you’re a business major looking to to draw up a marketing plan, a vocalist recording original work, or a biologist working in a lab, much of the work you do can contribute to original, substantive research.

While you’re an undergraduate at AU, you’ll have a number of chances to engage in research. You’ll work with faculty in your field or with off-campus partners to participate in various projects. Course work within your major is a great starting point for discovering what type of research you want to conduct. Faculty will be there to guide you along the way and ultimately one or more of those professors can serve as direct mentors for your research. You may be asked to co-author articles or participate in conferences. These are opportunities you can seek out on your own as well to publicly display your research.

Remember, too, that research doesn’t begin and end with your major requirements or any sort of capstone experience you might be required to complete. Research assistantships are an important avenue for creating new research. The AU Summer Scholars and Artists fellowships were created to offer undergraduates the time and funding to devote to extensive projects. And, as always, AU’s location in DC means that you have access to a large number of off-campus institutions and might be able to conduct research through internships, external fellowships, and community partnerships.

All of these are options for conducting original research, whether you’re working in a lab, conducting archival research, or writing a screenplay. All of these examples are types of research you might do. You’re not limited by specific requirements or by a rigid definition of research. You can move beyond your discipline and make connections to other fields or interests and you might have, whether you do that on campus or by working with an off-campus institution.

Research is something you can begin the moment you start at AU. From your first day through graduation three or four years on, you’ll have the support you need to engage in undergraduate research projects. As a first year student, you can lay the groundwork by choosing courses that interest you and meeting with faculty whose research matches your ambitions. Throughout the rest of your academic career, you can continue to foster your interests and deepen those faculty relationships.