Undergraduate Research

A large percentage of IB majors engage in research before they graduate, most on faculty-initiated research projects, but some on projects initiated by themselves. Research is not just for students who want to go on to graduate school or want to become scientists. You can pursue research to learn how to solve problems, to put into practice what you are learning in your courses, to explore things at the cutting edge. You learn to pay attention to details because results must be reproducible.  There are many opportunities for doing research beyond the bounds of Integrative Biology and many ways to find funding for your research. Read on!

When Should I Start Doing Research?

There really is no right answer to this question. Students can start research any time they wish, as long as they have a lab to work in. We recommend that students take on research after they have gotten used to Cal. For many, this is around their 3rd or 4th years. We advise transfer students to wait until their second semester at Cal to begin research.

Finding a research position

  • There is no sure way to find a research position; different avenues exist by which students may pursue research. The first place to start may be Cal's Research Page.
  • The Career Center maintains an Internship Directory and provides workshops and seminars on finding internships.
  • Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP) - Faculty post descriptions of positions for which they would like to recruit undergrad research assistants (RAs). See postings for URAP positions in IB. Fall applications open August 16 and applications are due August 29.
  • Direct contact with faculty or graduate students. Students may contact a faculty member or grad student directly who is doing work related to the student's area of interest. If unsure about what people in IB are studying, take a look at the Faculty Research Interests and Students Research Interests pages. (You may also want to look at faculty research interest and grad student pages for other biology departments or do a search here: http://vcresearch.berkeley.edu/faculty-expertise.) See the tips for contacting faculty members below.
  • Off-campus research positions: IB students work in labs in various departments across campus, including Molecular & Cell Biology, Psychology and Plant & Microbial Biology, just to name a few. Additionally, it is possible to do research in a lab off campus if you wish—IB students can earn credit for research at the University of California, San Francisco or Oakland Children's Hospital Research Institute, for example, as long as a Cal faculty member is willing to sponsor them. Please note that in order to earn research credit through IB, a student must be an IB major or be working in an IB lab.

Finding funding for your research

There are a variety of ways to secure funding for your research. The best way to find out about them is to a) attend a research workshop, offered during fall and spring semesters or b) read through the programs available and apply.

Tips for Contacting Faculty

Tips for approaching faculty about research:

  1. Research the faculty member beforehand:
    • If their research is interesting to you, think about why.
    • Read the most recent publications from the lab.
    • Become well informed regarding recent and current research in the lab, enabling you to discuss why you would like to enter the faculty member's lab and why you think you (and your specific interests) would be a good fit.
  2. Contact the faculty member via email first to set up an appointment. Mention in the email that you are interested in pursuing research and why you think their research is interesting. Be sure to include a cover letter and resume, if applicable.
  3. Practice for the meeting. Try some tips from the Career Center.
  4. Bring your resume and cover letter to the meeting. See the Career Center's guide to resume writing. Think about these qualities that we think most faculty would like to see:
    • Dedication and reliability
    • Passion for the research topic(s)
    • Analytical thinking skills
    • Ability to think outside the box
    • Willingness to commit to at least one year of research in the lab

Unit credit for research

Yes, there are many ways to earn units for research. Unit credit is generally earned on the basis of 1 unit per 3 hours of research per week. (E.g., 6-8 hours of research time per week would earn 2 units for the semester, while 9-11 hours would earn 3 units.) A student can accumulate up to a maximum of 16 units of Independent Study towards the bachelor's degree, and enrollment in Independent Study is restricted to 4 units in a given semester. Check with the College of Letters & Science for further restrictions.

**Though all research credit is earned through work with a faculty sponsor, some credit can only be earned for working on a highly independent project.
**Honors work requires that the student work on an independent project.

Options for earning unit credit for research:

Credit Earned #Units Who is eligible? Requires original research? Letter grade
IB 99 Variable (1-4) Students with less than 60 units Not always P/NP
IB 199 Variable (1-4) Students with at least 60 units Not always P/NP
IB 191 IB majors with a GPA of 2.0 or above Yes Letter-graded
IB 196 -
IB Honors Program
3 IB Majors with a GPA of 3.3 overall AND in IB Major Yes Letter graded

 

Procedure for earning credit

  1. Contact an IB Faculty member to sponsor you (see steps above).
  2. Complete an application for Independent Study (found online or in the Undergraduate Student Services Office (3060 VLSB).
  3. Return the completed application to the Undergraduate Student Services Office (3060 VLSB).
  4. The Undergraduate Student Services Office will provide you with a course control number (CCN) to enable you to register for the units. Please note that CCNs are not usually available until the beginning of the semester—come in during the first five weeks of the semester to obtain your CCN.

Research FAQ

For more information about Undergraduate Research, visit the Research FAQ compiled by DIBS.