Undergraduate Research

Research in chemistry is a challenging and rewarding experience!

You don’t have to major in chemistry or know a great deal about chemistry to begin doing undergraduate research. Sophomores through seniors who are majoring in chemistry, biology, psychology, physics, geography, earth sciences and other areas have successfully participated in undergraduate research in chemistry. All you need is a positive attitude, an interest in chemistry, a good work ethic, and a desire to learn.

Research can be done for course credit (through CHEM 4900) or, in some cases, for salary. Undergraduate research helps develop independence and encourages creativity to solve problems as part of a team, skills that prospective employers and graduate and professional schools consider desirable. What a way to build a resume or add to your graduate school application!

Students learn to master experimental techniques, such as the synthesis of new compounds, the characterization of interesting materials, or the analysis of biomolecules. They also experience the excitement of making truly original contributions to the field of science. Imagine the thrill of being the first person ever to make a particular compound or discover a new property of an important substance! Many of the articles published by faculty in top-quality journals feature undergraduate students as co-authors and students often discuss the results of their research in a seminar or poster presentations at professional meetings. Many UNC Charlotte undergraduate students receive awards for their presentations.

If you have questions about Undergraduate Research, please contact Dr. Tom Schmedake.

Are you an undergraduate who is interested in doing research in chemistry? Please follow the steps below to find an appropriate research advisor.

Step 1: Identify areas of research in which you are interested.

Typically, chemists identify themselves according to the specialty areas of analytical, bio-, inorganic, organic, or physical chemistry, although many projects involve aspects of multiple areas. Descriptions of faculty research interests are here. Read carefully about their research and look at publications for each group prior to contacting any faculty members.

Step 2: Contact at least 3 faculty members who have interesting research opportunities.

Once you narrow your choices, you should talk to multiple faculty members. Often, you will find that you are more interested than you expected in a particular research area because you didn’t know much about it. Please remember to be cordial and formal when introducing yourself to a professor by e-mail, phone, or in person.

Step 3: Prepare for your appointment with SELECTED faculty MEMBERS.

Visit the research group homepages for your faculty members of interest to get an idea of their research directions, and to get an idea of how you would like to contribute. Consider reading, ahead of time, some of the papers published in the group. You should talk to the graduate and undergraduate researchers in the group to get a feeling for the expectations and for the interactions within the group. Also, be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • How many hours per week would you want to work?
  • Do you want to do research for credit or on a volunteer basis?
  • Do you want to work primarily with the faculty member or with graduate students?
  • Do you want an independent project, or research that supports a larger project?
  • What kind of group dynamic works well for you?
  • How many years do you envision continuing with research?
  • What is your chemistry background?
  • Which parts of your chemistry labs did you enjoy most?

Step 4: Once you have chosen a group, be sure to finalize the process.

  • If you are registering for research credit, you will need to register for CHEM 4900: Directed Undergraduate Research. Permission to register will go through the faculty member you are working with. Be sure you are requesting permission with the CRN number for the section with the correct number of credit hours.
  • If you are volunteering, be sure you have set expectations with your research advisor for the number of hours per week or expected progress. Your research advisor will have you sign a volunteer waiver form; you must sign this before starting research.
  • Some experienced undergraduates are paid with grant money to support their research efforts.