PSYC 3889 (Undergraduate Research) is an independent study course available for students interested in gaining “hands-on” research experience alongside faculty and graduate students actively engaged in research; students help with an established research project.
The psychological sciences department does make research position placements; students are expected to independently find a research opportunity. However, a PSYC 3889 (Undergraduate Research) opportunity may be found in a number of ways. Faculty actively searching for PSYC 3889 research assistants may post their opportunities via an announcement on our website or on the designated bulletin board outside the Undergraduate Program Office. Keep an eye out for the Undergraduate Psychological Sciences Digest emails, as openings are included there as well. Furthermore, your academic advisor and other students involved in research may be aware of research opportunities.
However, most research positions are never formally advertised. The following steps, based on those suggested by the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) and customized for psychological sciences students, are designed to help you obtain a research opportunity.
1. Think about why you want to participate in research.
Before you get involved with research, it’s important to establish your goals and interests. When you approach faculty to discuss possible opportunities, you want to make a positive first impression by showing that you’ve thought seriously about your goals and interests and why you want to participate in research.
2. Think about the areas of psychological sciences in which you might like to participate in research.
Faculty have a broad range of research interests but on the whole, research at UConn is organized into six specialty areas, or divisions:
- Behavioral Neuroscience – Understanding the biological basis of behavior and cognition.
- Clinical – Understanding, prevention, and treatment of psychological disorders as well as promoting mental well-being.
- Developmental – Understanding changes in behavior and cognition over the life-span.
- Industrial/Organizational – Understanding the organization of social and physical interactions primarily in the workplace.
- Perception, Action, & Cognition (PAC) – Understanding the nature of perceptual processes and cognition.
- Social – Understanding how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by others.
If possible, attend a poster session (e.g., Frontiers, Fall Frontiers, LangFest, Psychological Sciences Graduate Poster Night) or other research event (e.g., colloquium, seminar series) to get a sense of ongoing research in the department and divisions. These opportunities are regularly advertised in the Undergraduate Psychological Sciences Digest.
3. Determine which faculty are engaged in this area of research.
Each division is still quite broad; each faculty member has a narrow set of research interests within their division. Refer to the Faculty Research Interests list for a directory of faculty and their research interests. Note which faculty are conducting research in areas that interest you.
4. Learn more about these faculty members’ research.
Search for journal publications authored by faculty of interest. Some faculty have links to their publications on their faculty profile, but most likely you will need to conduct a search in a research publication database (e.g., PsycINFO). Review these publications to learn more about this research. Don’t worry about reading the whole publication in detail and understanding everything; focus on the abstract, introduction, and conclusion for an overview.
5. Contact individual faculty to discuss the possibility a research experience.
Based on their research interests and scholarly publications, contact individual faculty to discuss the possibility of completing a PSYC 3889 (Undergraduate Research) experience. It is important that your email be professional and polished. Ideally, you will learn enough about the lab to be a valuable asset, but before then, the lab managers will expend a lot of time and energy training you. You need to explain why you are specifically interested in their lab and why they will benefit from your knowledge and skills. Convey this in a brief email and include a résumé. (Be sure to utilize the resources at OUR and the Center for Career Development!) When you’re ready to send your email, contact information and office hours for faculty are available in the UConn Phonebook and on the Contact Faculty page.
Students wishing to register for PSYC 3889 should contact their instructor for more information. Your instructor may issue you a permission number. Alternatively, you may be asked to complete a Research Form (i.e., Independent Study Authorization). Be sure to fill out the form completely and obtain your Instructor’s signature. Submit the form to the Undergraduate Program Office for the Advisor’s and Associate Department Head’s signatures and final processing. Forms are due by the end of the 4th week of the classes during the regular academic year and by the end of the add/drop period for summer courses.