Credit or Pay?
Consider what type of research position is the best fit for you. Most important, your research experience will expand your skills, build your resume, and inform your career goals. Research opportunities apply what you learn in the classroom to a real-world problem or issue. They also provide a start to form deep and lasting relationships with faculty and with other students in your research group, who often become a second family and source of support.
Research for Credit
Consider your course load when starting research during the academic year. Keep credits manageable (4-5 classes and light on lab/field courses). Plan your schedule with several 3-4 hour open blocks each week to allow time for research training from your mentor. Working on research 3-5 hours per week throughout the semester is equivalent to one credit hour. To obtain research credit, enroll through the online ENVS 4990 Special Studies form in the first five weeks of the semester. Most undergraduate researchers enroll in 2-3 credits per semester, though honors candidates in their senior year often enroll in 4 or more credits.
Research for Pay
Research groups have funding available for paid research opportunities during the academic year and in summer. This is something to ask about in the interview. Federal Work Study (FWS) funding, sometimes a component of Cornell financial aid, can provide a competitive edge in obtaining a research position. Some research jobs are listed on campus student jobs and others can be found by word of mouth. Watch for flyers advertising positions displayed in departments or at the start of lectures.
Summer Research Internships
Summer research internships offer full- and part-time paid positions on and off-campus. Immersing yourself in summer research for 8-10 weeks gives you a sense of what it is like to do research full-time without juggling academic demands. This is an invaluable experience if you are considering a research career path. The application period for most summer internships extends from late winter through early spring, and internship opportunities in many fields are listed on Handshake. The Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability partners with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to offer summer research internships in environment and sustainability. Also see the Office of Undergraduate Biology summer internship database for opportunities in the life sciences. See our Internships page for more information about internships.
Research as a Volunteer
Students often get started in research by volunteering in a lab. Such positions permit students to get some exposure to research before formally enrolling in research credits or taking a paid position. Volunteering can be a way to demonstrate reliability and commitment.