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Research Opportunities

The Department is very proud of the research options available to students at the undergraduate level. The vast majority of our support for the research programs is directly related to the external grants and contracts that are awarded to our faculty from a variety of state, national, international, government, and private corporate sources. Independent research is conducted through the guidance of a faculty member within the department, which provides you with the opportunity to experience one-on-one contact with faculty at the highest level of professionalism. The variety of research areas and interests are excellent.

Independent research is not required to obtain a chemistry degree; however, the advantages in obtaining research credit at the undergraduate level are numerous:

  • development of skills associated with working in the chemical literature
  • development of advanced laboratory skills and methods of data archival and analysis
  • increased interactions with your peers and faculty within the department
  • greater exposure to state-of-the art instrumentation used in chemical research
  • easier transition to research at the graduate level or upon employment
  • flexible scheduling of research time (as opposed to structured teaching labs)
  • increased self-confidence and independence in laboratory research
  • development of written and oral communication skills

Well-qualified and enthusiastic students may start independent research for credit as early as their freshman year. Students in the summer research program are paid a stipend and free housing is available. Students should visit the Faculty Research Interests pages, talk to their instructors or contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies to find out about specific research opportunities.

Research Courses/Opportunities

Chem 191: Freshman Honors Research - allows students to become involved in independent research for credit in the spring of their freshman year. 

Chem 291: Chemical Research - can be taken repeatedly for credit in the sophomore and junior years. The credit earned through Chem291 cannot be applied to the 120 hour minimum for graduation.

Chem 320: Introduction to Chemical Research -  a required course for chemistry majors normally taken in the spring of the junior year. Students are assigned a faculty research advisor by the Director of Undergraduate Research. Student research interests will be considered when making the assignments. Students typically continue with their Chem 320 advisors as mentors for independent senior research.

Chem 409: Senior Research - can be taken for 1 – 3 credits per semester and up to a maximum of 6 credits towards graduation. A minimum of 3 credits is required for ACS certification. The second writing requirement may be fulfilled by enrolling concurrently in Chem 409W.

Chem 495/496, Honors Research, is restricted to guidelines set by the College  and permission of the individual faculty research advisor.  Students must enroll for 3 credits/semester, and are expected to put forth a more rigorous research effort. Honors research culminates with an oral defense of the research thesis at the end of the spring semester. Although Honors research is more time consuming, graduating with honors can only enhance your resume in the future. Guidelines, deadlines and application information can be found on the Charles Center website. Honors research credit applies to ACS certification.

We have also developed guidelines for students interested in obtaining research credit for chemistry outside of the department such as VIMS or Applied Science. The main criteria for acceptance of this alternative is that the research be chemically oriented and approved by the department. You should consult the Director of Undergraduate Research.

Summer Research

The number of students offered summer research fellowships varies from year to year and is a function of individual faculty grant support and other monies and endowments available to the department and through the College in any given year. We have been able to support 40-50 students on average over any given summer. Students are paid a stipend for ten weeks and free housing is available in the dorms thanks to the generosity and support of the College administration. The summer fellowships are competitive and participation is based on academic credentials, future goals, and continuation of research in the senior year. There are several programs available through the Charles Center for summer funding as well. Students participating in the summer program are invited to present the results of their summer research efforts either in the form of a poster or talk at the Undergraduate Research Symposium held every spring semester.