Undergraduate Research Experience
Undergraduate research opportunities allow students to apply their classroom knowledge to real life cutting-edge biomedical engineering projects. Students are advised to do research not as an attempt to boost the appearance of their resumé, but to meet their curiosity and creativity and further their engineering skills. To be successful, students must proactively identify their own interest areas and search for matching faculty mentors.
Doing research involves serious commitment and considerable stress on the schedule. Students are therefore discouraged from engaging in research until after the freshman year. This would allow them to acclimate to the rigorous academic load and to take classes that lay a groundwork for research skills.
The research may take place during the academic year or summer. Students may perform research either as a paid Research Assistant if funding is available, or for earning course units through the registration of 42-x00 Biomedical Engineering Research Project or 39-500 CIT Honors Thesis if eligible. Nine (9) units of research, may be counted as a restricted elective course toward the BME additional major.
Both Carnegie Mellon University (through the SURF program) and Biomedical Engineering Department (see below) have established competitive funding mechanisms for supporting students who are interested in performing research during the summer. Some advisors may also support summer research through their research grants. While a student may choose to earn course units from summer research, this would preclude the financial support and incur a summer tuition.
Summer Undergraduate Research Abstracts
Biomedical Engineering Summer Undergraduate Research Program (BME-SURP)
This program allows students to spend a ten-week period on a project that combines translational research and clinical exposure at a local medical center. Hundreds of students have participated in BME-SURP since its introduction in 1980. The experience has played a major role in helping students choose their career paths and obtain positions in industry or academia.
Eligibility: The BME-SURP is intended only for CMU students who have completed their sophomore year and are officially registered as an additional major in Biomedical Engineering.
Matching Procedure: BME Department first matches each applicant tentatively with one or more potential mentors based on indicated mutual interest. The mentor may further select from the student candidates for interview, then submit his/her preferences to the BME Department, which makes a final matching decision. Switching mentors is not permitted once a student has accepted a position. Due to limited financial resources, there is no guarantee that all applicants will receive an offer.
Research Conference: A Research Conference is held at the end of the summer, when each student will present his/her research in an oral presentation. Participation is mandatory in order for the student to receive the final paycheck.
Biomedical Engineering Undergraduate Travel Assistance Program
The purpose of this program is to promote career development of BME undergraduate students by supporting travel activities associated with academic visibility on a national or international platform.
Eligibility: The program is ONLY intended for students who have declared an additional major in Biomedical Engineering. The trip must be related to research in biomedical engineering, and must be associated with significant honor or visibility, such as presentation at a major national conference or receiving a major award.
Students who conducted research with CMU BME faculty (including adjunct faculty) will be eligible to receive the full travel award, while those students who conducted research with faculty outside of CMU who are not affiliated with the CMU Department of Biomedical Engineering will be eligible to receive 50% of the full travel award. Students who conducted research with non-CMU faculty as part of an exchange program will be eligible to receive the full travel award. Students seeking support should include a statement of endorsement from their research supervisor.
Students should also seek assistance from their other major department, as well as the University Research Office
Tips for Current Students Interested in Pursuing Research
- Learn about the identified faculty members using the links on Faculty Directory. Develop and understanding of the ongoing research projects.
- Send an email to professor(s) of interest. The message should describe coursework, relevant skills, and research experiences. Also indicate the number of available hours per week and their distribution.
- If the professor declines the application, ask about any preparations needed for future consideration. Note that the qualification varies among the professors and projects. In addition, opportunities may be created after a professor meets a strong student.
- Arrange a meeting if the professor appears interested. Discuss the expectation and consider shadowing a graduate student or attending a group meeting. Determine if the lab environment is compatible with personal preferences, keeping in mind that personality match can be as important as research topics.
- In order to receive a grade for 42-x00, a research proposal of two to three pages must be submitted to the Associate Department Head within the first three weeks of classes. This proposal must contain the nature of the project, the number of units, and the criteria for grading are to be determined between the student and the research advisor. In addition, a summary of two to three pages must be submitted to the Associate Department Head by the First Friday of final exams.
- Promising summer projects may be continued in the following academic year. Students are encouraged to discuss with the advisor the possibility of developing an abstract for submission to a national conference such as the BMES Annual Meeting, which carries multiple strong career benefits. See also the Travel Assistance Program below.