Carnegie Mellon University

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I do research as an undergraduate?
Besides looking great on your resume, conducting research as an undergraduate is a terrific way to get to know faculty members, explore an area of interest in depth, turn classroom theory into practical hands-on experience, get a feel for graduate school, and have some fun at the same time.

I'm not a scientist or an engineer: can I still do research?
Absolutely. We use a broad definition of research which includes appropriate activities in the arts and humanities, as well as the sciences and technical fields: "Research, scholarly, or artistic activities that lead to the production of new knowledge; to increased problem solving capabilities, including design and analysis; to original critical or historical theory and interpretation; or to the production of art or artistic performance."

Do I have to wait until I'm an upperclass student to conduct research?
No. We encourage you to think about conducting a research project in your first or second year. While some projects may require lab and coursework before you are ready to participate, other projects are open to students at all levels. Many faculty are interested in working with early-career students.

What if I have my own project in mind?
You can work with a faculty member on an existing research project, or you can design a project of your own. Either way, you will need to have a project advisor. So if you have always had an idea for a project, now is the time to develop your own ideas!

How do I find out about research opportunities?
There are a variety of ways to find research opportunities - through a faculty you have had for a class; through your advisor; through your department; through your friends.  The URO can also help connect you to opportunities and help you navigate through the process.

Can I do a project outside of my home department?
Absolutely. You are encouraged to seek opportunities outside of your home department. Now is the time to explore your interests--do that robotics project you have always thought about, explore art or music, investigate an historical problem.

Can I get credit for my research?
Yes, if you are doing SURG, which covers materials and supplies. Nearly every department has an undergraduate research course number (much like an independent study). Speak to your faculty advisor about signing up for credit, grading procedures, etc.

No, if you are participating in SURF, which provides monetary support directly to you.

Can I get funded for more than one SURG and SURF?
You can be funded for more than one SURG per semester and for many grants throughout your undergraduate years.  There are no limits, through students are cautioned to limit their commitments. You may only receive funding for one SURF to enable you to participate in fulltime summer research on campus.

How can I get some funding for my project?
If you are conducting a research project and are in good academic standing, you are eligible to apply for a Small Undergraduate Research Grant. Grants are awarded competitively based on project proposals. The selection committee will consider requests up to $500 for individual projects or $1,000 for group projects.

How much time will a project take?
Generally, students spend at least as much time each week on research as they would in a typical course. However, time commitments vary widely from project to project--be sure to discuss your expectations with your faculty advisor.

What are my responsibilities as a SURG grant recipient?
You will need to sign a funding agreement form when you pick up your check. This form explains how to keep track of your grant, what to do if you do not complete your project, and the proper way to acknowledge your funding.

How competitive is SURG and SURF?
There is a committee of faculty and staff who read the proposals and determine who will be funded.  Four people will read your proposal, but only one will have expertise in your area. The strength of the proposal determines whether it will be funded.  This is why it is important to attend the workshops and meet with a URO representative.