Research

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

The Department has an active undergraduate research mentoring program in which undergraduate students work on a research project with a faculty member and are mentored by one of that faculty member’s graduate students.

Link to the list of graduate student mentors.

Goals of the Environmental Sciences Department Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program:

PROGRAM OVERVIEW

The undergraduate research mentoring program seeks to connect undergraduate students who are interested in gaining experience with scientific research in the environmental sciences with graduate students who can provide those opportunities. Undergraduate students may either 1) assist a graduate student with an existing research project or 2) develop their own research project under the guidance of a graduate student. Due to the varied nature of student interests, research projects, and graduate student needs there is no single prescribed format for the research program or the mentor-mentee relationship.  The undergraduate student often receives academic credit for their work (see below) although volunteering–especially for shorter-term research experiences–and employment are also possible outcomes. The skills and relationships developed through assisting a graduate student with their work often serve as a gateway to developing an independent research project for a senior thesis or the Distinguished Majors Program (see above).

SELECTING A MENTOR

Interested undergraduate students should browse the list of graduate students who are seeking students to find the mentor who best fits their interests. Then, use the provided information to contact that person directly to further discuss research opportunities. This discussion should clarify the nature of the research and the mentor’s needs as well as begin to flesh out what the mentor and mentee can expect from each other.  By the conclusion of or shortly after this discussion the undergraduate and graduate student should decide whether to work together, forming a mentoring team.

RECEIVING ACADEMIC CREDIT

Academic credit, though not a requirement of the program, may be assigned, typically under EVSC 4995 Supervised Research. EVSC 4995 Supervised Research is undertaken by a student involved in the activity of research. The acquisition of new knowledge may arise from developing and applying some skills of observation or analysis. The student may learn a new analytical method or tool for data analysis. The student may collect or analyze samples or data. The student should know enough about the topic of the research to understand the context of the research activity. Menial tasks such as washing bottles or data entry, while an inevitable part of the practice of scientific research, should not comprise the majority of effort toward Supervised Research credits.

1–4 credit hours is recommended for each semester the undergraduate participates in the mentor program. To insure that academic credit is justified by an appropriate educational component, each credit hour should correspond 3–4 hours of activity per week. Receiving academic credit for Supervised Research also involves an end-of-semester written report, the extent and depth of which will depend on the number of credits taken.

After forming a grad student-undergraduate pair (the mentoring team), the pair should meet with the graduate student’s faculty advisor to discuss expectations and a tentative research plan. For academic credit to be awarded, this meeting must take place prior to the Add/Drop deadline for the semester. The faculty advisor and mentoring team will come to an agreement on the appropriate number of credit hours for the semester and set expectations for evaluating the student’s progress. The mentoring team should update the faculty advisor regularly throughout the semester, and the faculty advisor and the graduate student will meet at the end of the semester to evaluate the undergraduate student’s fulfillment of the goals and objectives established at the beginning of the semester.

Questions can be addressed to the Program Directors, Kate LeCroy (kal8d@virginia.edu) and Alissa Vincent (cav3gh@virginia.edu) via email.