Undergraduate Research-Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences - Carnegie Mellon University

When it comes to preparing its students for the future, few universities can match the opportunities that Carnegie Mellon University offers its undergraduates for research and training. 

Dietrich College undergraduate students are actively engaged in groundbreaking research. Recent projects include face recognition software, symphonies based on sonic patterns found in star clusters and the effects of outsourcing on the IT industry.

Using surveillance technologies raises serious legal and ethical questions, and cities across the U.S. are tasked with figuring out how to balance public safely with protecting privacy rights. To help Pittsburgh officials understand the issues and develop effective policies, City Councilman Dan Gilman (DC’04) turned to Ethics, History and Public Policy seniors. The 10 students spent the semester researching the history of surveillance technology, analyzing how similar cities have implemented different tools and policies and developing recommendations for Pittsburgh. Read more.

Another example is James Bursley (DC’12), who joined CMU’s Health and Human Performance Laboratory as a freshman and spent his undergraduate career working on brain imaging and learning studies. You can also watch him discuss the research he did with Psychology Professor David Creswell in this video.

Dietrich College supports students financially through research and study abroad grants. And, through an active mentoring program called Research Training for Undergraduates, students work with professors on topics of mutual interest. Students are encouraged to engage in research as early as their freshman year.

Through a research skills course option, academically qualified first- and second-year Dietrich College students have the chance to work side by side with a faculty member in a research project. Many undergraduate students, at all levels, participate in independent research projects and some can receive funding from the university for these activities. These opportunities allow some students to complete portions of published research projects.

Research grants have provided funding for studies in the following areas, among others: exploring gender differences in nonverbal communication, filming a documentary about life on a submarine, creating a speech synthesizer for Vietnamese, how children acquire language. Faculty advisors believe student researchers are valuable contributors to these efforts.

Dietrich College and its departments offer a variety of travel and research awards to students interested in exploring their world and their interests. Research and project work play an important role in nearly all Dietrich College departments. Courses often involve work on 'real world' projects, such as designing computer kiosks for the disabled, or designing electronic voting systems. Read about two undergraduates who recently received support from the Psychology Department.

Dietrich College believes research experience builds your skills in analysis as well as creative and critical thinking. This training has obvious value no matter whether you are planning in the private or public sector, or continuing on to graduate school.


James Bursley (DC’12), who majored in psychology, and David Creswell, assistant professor of psychology, discuss their brain imaging research that showed how unconscious processing improves decision making.

undergraduate researcher profile