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Faculty Mentors Engage Undergraduates in Research

It’s no secret that UC San Diego’s reputation as a research powerhouse is one of the top reasons that students come here. Immediately following graduation, roughly 46 percent of undergraduates pursue advanced degrees in law, medicine, biology, engineering, education and public health at top graduate schools. The opportunity to do hands-on research alongside top faculty members on cutting-edge projects is at the heart of the UC San Diego student experience.

Often working one-on-one with students, faculty mentors offer guidance and insight into the research process—from how to develop a research topic and write a research proposal to submitting a paper and presenting the findings. Faculty also mentor students about graduate school and pursuing a career in research.

“I have a fantastic faculty mentor who helped make my first experience with research an amazing one,” said Aimee Chabot, a psychology and critical gender studies double major researching Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. "I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology and working with my mentor, Professor Lang, in the research-rich environment of UC San Diego has made me confident that I will be able to achieve that goal."

In addition to providing preparation for graduate school, undergraduate research enables students to explore  potential fields of work and learn more about what they do and don’t like—and perhaps even discover a career option they didn’t know existed. Student researchers help to create new knowledge that will impact society, while developing analytical skills that will be a lifelong asset.

“There are lots of good reasons for students who think they may not be interested in research to do it anyway,” said David Artis, dean of Undergraduate Research Initiatives. “A research mindset is something you will use for the rest of your life, even if you don’t pursue a research career. You don’t want to be in a position where you’re relying on someone else to interpret data for you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor or an engineer or a mortgage broker. There will be data, and if you can’t read it for yourself, you will be dependent on a skilled researcher who can.”

UC San Diego encourages undergraduates of all majors to get involved with research and offers numerous opportunities for them to do so, from summer internships to field work abroad. These opportunities include:

  • Faculty Mentor Program – Students work as research assistants to UC San Diego faculty members for at least 10 hours per week for two quarters. Under the guidance of their faculty mentors, participants design and implement research projects which they will present at the annual Faculty Mentor Research Symposium at the end of the academic year.  
  • Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity (IMSD) – Supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (part of the National Institute of Health), this program aims to motivate UC San Diego undergraduates toward a career in science by engaging students in hands-on research, workshops, seminars, peer mentoring and other laboratory activities.
  • Special Studies Courses – Many of UC San Diego’s departments and programs offer undergraduates the opportunity to conduct research for academic credit through Special Studies Courses (numbered 97-99 and 197-199). Students work independently or in small groups under the guidance of a faculty advisor.
  • Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) – The MARC Program is designed to prepare highly qualified underrepresented students in the biosciences for entry into graduate school. The two year program includes two summers of intensive research experience, one at UC San Diego and the other at another university in the United States, in addition to the research experience during the academic year.

For more information about undergraduate research at UC San Diego and available opportunities, visit the online Undergraduate Research Portal.