Why should I engage in research as an undergraduate student?
No matter what career path you are pursuing, research experience gives you transferable skills in communication, teamwork, problem solving and analysis. You gain grit when you persist in something challenging until you succeed. Employers and graduate schools value these experiences and skills. As an E&S major, you'll find rich opportunities to engage in environment and sustainability research.
When to start your research
You can do research during the academic year or in summer. Typically, students start in the sophomore year or in the summer before junior year. Consult your mentor to decide if you will do research for credit, pay or volunteer.
Many starting research positions do not require that you have previous experience or have your own research idea. Sometimes, faculty want to see that you have taken a particular course. Have a resume ready. Use your college's Career Development office (CALS or A&S) and Optimal Resume to prepare.
Start looking for faculty whose research is of interest to you a whole semester in advance of when you would like to start a position. Examine their web pages, talk to your TAs and ask for suggestions, talk to other undergrads who are working on research projects or about to graduate. Try to develop a network that can help you find a faculty member who can guide your research. Subscribe to CURB and check out Handshake for summer research opportunities off campus.
Explore your options
Research inspiration can be found everywhere.
Think about where your interests lie on the continuum of life — from DNA to organisms to food webs in natural systems to whole communities of people, plants or animals and the governmental policies that regulate them.
Do you want to spend your time in a lab or in a community conducting social science interviews? Maybe you want to be out in nature observing birds or in the library archives doing research on environmental history? Do you want to study urban or rural environments? Local or global?
Cornell researchers and scholars are doing innovative, impactful work and undergraduates can be part of it. Subscribe to department email lists for special symposia and seminars to learn about research. Browse department websites to learn about community-based research opportunities. Be inspired by the breadth of humanities research ongoing in the College of Arts & Sciences.
CornellCast has some short video documentaries of faculty and student research. Try keywords associated with your interests to find faculty doing the kind of work to which you aspire. As an example, check out this video highlighting research and educational efforts with the New York State Department of Parks and Recreation.