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Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Types of Research

An amazing variety and quantity of research is conducted in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Study areas include basic and applied research in agriculture, food and nutrition, life sciences, environmental sciences, and the social and behavioral sciences. Scientific investigation takes place in laboratories, in greenhouses, and in the "field," under controlled environmental conditions; researchers can also be found collecting information in settings as diverse as food superstores, media organizations, farms, and tropical rain forests. Whatever the type or setting, all research conducted in the College is motivated by its relevance to society and designed to lead to improved human well being in New York State, the nation, and the world.

Team Oriented

CALS undergraduate students are often active participants in the research process, joining teams composed of faculty members, graduate students, post-doctoral students, and others. Some students hold paid positions, others participate in honors research, and still others take part through credit-bearing courses. In the latter case, hundreds of CALS students enroll in Undergraduate Research 4990 and Individual Study 4970 each year. The experience is positive for undergraduates in many ways: students become valuable members of a research team while designing and conducting their own projects; they integrate research with course work and career plans; they experience the excitement of discovery; and they have the opportunity to develop stronger ties to faculty members, promoting a sense of collegiality and leading to mentoring relationships that last for years. Some students have even become co-authors of significant papers published in refereed journals, co-inventors on patent disclosures, and speakers at national conferences.

Plan Ahead

While the overall outlook for undergraduate involvement in research activities is very positive, there are some limitations. For example, positions are not always available in a given facility or with a particular professor. Also, students must often work into their desired positions, perhaps by taking prerequisite courses or by starting in a very routine role in the laboratory (e.g. performing setup or cleanup). The most exciting positions are usually awarded to the students who are very active in identifying, pursuing, and preparing for them. Students must take initiative but help is available.

The following information is meant to guide students in their preparation for securing an exciting research position, whether with individual professors, research centers, or institutes. The focus is on opportunities and general guidelines within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; however information is also available to CALS students who wish to explore possibilities across campus as well.