Carnegie Mellon University

Academic-year Opportunities

Students can supplement their classroom education with research experiences in faculty laboratories during the academic year or in the summer. Students can participate in research during the academic year in one of 3 ways:

For Credit

Students wishing to earn academic credit for their research must complete an Add Request Form to enroll in Research for credit (03-445) or Honors Research for Credit (03-545; includes special requirements; Spring semesters only)This form should contain a paragraph summary of the work to be completed during the semester and the expected number of units that the student wishes to earn. ONE unit = ONE hour of work PER WEEK. This form should be completed by the student and signed by the faculty mentor.Students should return forms to the Undergraduate Programs Office ( or DH 1320) prior to the last day to add classes in a semester.

Students MUST submit a report at the end of the semester. The report must be approved (signed) by the faculty mentor and forwarded to the Undergraduate Programs Office (DH 1320) or emailed to by 5:00pm on Reading Day of finals week. The report should be 1.5 to 2 pages (around 1000 words) in length with paragraphs addressing the following issues:

  1. Rationale – Why is your work important? What scientific question did your work address?
  2. Approach – What techniques did you use to address your scientific question? Why?
  3. Results – Describe your experimental outcomes. What did you find?
  4. Technical setbacks – Describe any problems that you encountered. What did you learn?    
  5. Conclusions – What do your data tell you? How does this fit into the “big picture”?
  6. Prospects for the future - Should you pursue the project, modify it, extend it?

Students should be intellectually engaged in their work. Attendance at group laboratory meetings is often required in addition to the hours of work that a student performs research at the bench. Students cannot earn credit for work as a laboratory aide (making solutions, etc.).

Students may apply up to 18 units of research credit towards general biology electives (03-XXX). No research credit will count towards advanced biology electives (03-3XX). Students may apply an additional 18 units of research credit towards free electives. No more than 36 units of research credit will be counted towards the 360 units required for graduation, but there is no maximum number of units that can be taken.

Funded Research

  1. Students may be supported for research by applying for monies to pay for their work and/or laboratory supplies. In addition to competitive national awards, students have several local options to which they can apply for support.

    The Undergraduate Research Office (URO) at Carnegie Mellon provides Small Undergraduate Research Grant (SURG) awards to students. These awards cover research expenses, summer fellowships for full-time summer research and presentation awards for students attending conferences.

    Students should confirm lab placement and proposed project prior to submitting an application to any of these programs. 
  2. Students may also be directly supported by funding that their faculty mentor has secured. This should be discussed between the faculty mentor and student prior to starting research in the laboratory.


Volunteering is often a good way to get started in research. If a faculty member doesn’t have space for a student, or if a student wants to participate in a laboratory on a limited or trial basis, volunteering allows for more flexibility in the amount of time scheduled in lab. Volunteering should consist of no more than 1-3 hours/week reading articles and planning upcoming projects. Any students actively contributing to projects in research labs should either be receiving pay or registered for research for credit. If necessary, you should discuss this possibility with your faculty mentor and academic advisor.

For more information about any of these programs, please contact: