Looking to get started in research? Undergraduate research is a learning activity that can enrich your experience at Wake Forest by broadening and deepening your classroom learning and supporting the development of a range of skills to carry you through your academic and professional career. Below you will learn more about pursuing research at Wake—and beyond!
How Do I Get Started in Research?
- Before the First Conversation
Getting involved in research at Wake Forest usually begins with a conversation. You can start by speaking with a faculty member whose class you’ve enjoyed, or by simply looking through a department’s faculty directory. Find someone whose research you admire—maybe do a little bit of reading on the topic (hint: you can start with a paper they’ve written!). If you don’t understand everything being discussed, that’s okay—you’re just starting out, after all, and a basic familiarity of the main concepts is all you need.
- Reaching Out
Reach out to the professor in a brief email. Aim for 3 sentences (no more than 5, max!), introducing yourself, expressing interest in their work, and asking if you could meet during office hours or some other time to discuss their research.
- In the Meeting
In that meeting, ask some questions to learn more about their research and see if it appeals to you (are you interested in the bigger question they’re exploring? Intrigued by the techniques they use? Think you’d enjoy learning from them?). If so, express that you’d like to get involved in doing research and ask if there might be a place for you in their lab at the end of your meeting.
- What if the professor has no openings, now what?
Sometimes a professor’s lab is already full or they don’t have openings for research assistants. In that case, you might see if there will be openings in the future or ask if they have a colleague whom they’d recommend talking to. Because labs and professors’ research needs change so often, there’s no central listing of research positions at Wake Forest. You may want to check in periodically with professors you’re interested in working with over the course of your time at Wake to see if the situation changes. You can also look into pursuing research at other universities over the summer.
Dr. James Pease, Assistant Professor of Biology and Faculty Director for STEM Scholarship Programs at Wake Forest, shares a dialogue between a fictitious student and professor. This exchange covers many of the common questions that students have when they’re just starting out (and answers them!).
Research at Other Universities
REUs (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) are summer programs that are specifically designed to help undergraduate students develop their research skills. Funded by the National Science Foundation, they take place across many disciplines at many different campuses each summer. Students are also part of a cohort, meaning that they have a built-in group of fellow researchers to spend time with. They’re a great way to explore your field further, gain experience in a kind of research Wake Forest might not offer, or to simply determine whether or not you’d like to pursue research as a career in the future.
Find an REU site by clicking on your discipline here. Application deadlines range from January through March, depending on the program.
Hear from Current Demon Deacons
Hear from some current Demon Deacons about their experience with REUs and advice for those applying!
The links provided below require a WFU login to access.
- Meet Ashley – What is an REU? and Why Did You Apply to an REU?
- Meet John – Should First-Years Apply to an REU? and What Did You Like Best About Your REU
- Meet Sarah Ruth – What Did You Like About Your REU? and REUs = More Than Just the Lab
The Scholars Office has more helpful advice from Ashley, John, and Sarah Ruth—email firstname.lastname@example.org for more videos (and application tips!) or to be put in touch with one of them.
You can also reach out to professors at other universities to ask if they have any openings in their labs for the summer. Follow the same steps detailed above about finding research opportunities with a professor at Wake—identify someone whose work you admire, and send a short email asking if you could talk further about their work (it’s always flattering to hear something positive from a fan!), and in that conversation see if they have any lab space for an undergraduate student that summer.