How to Find a Research Position

Step 1: See what is out there

Student doing computer search

The process of finding a mentor may seem intimidating or daunting, but it is actually fun once you know where to start.  Faculty researchers are usually happy to discuss their work and educate others, especially when a student is well prepared for the conversation.  There are undergraduates involved in research and creative work in every department on campus as well as places you may not expect like the UI libraries and museums.  All students started in the same place - finding a mentor:

Talk to an ICRU Research Ambassador.
Our ambassadors are undergraduate researchers and creative scholars who are extremely passionate about their work and love to share that enthusiasm. Feel free to send an email to any ambassador. Click on the link above to find an ICRU Research Ambassador!

Talk to a professor that you like.
If a class has inspired you or piqued your interest, go to office hours or send a quick email. Even if that person is not actively doing research/creative work or taking on students, they may know of similar faculty members, groups, or projects that fit your interests.

Talk to your TAs.
Teaching Assistants are graduate students at the University.  They are wonderful resources for information about the work going on within their department.  See if they have insider knowledge of any available opportunities.

Scour departmental "people" and "research" webpages.
Departmental webpages provide information and links to their faculty members' research interests.  Spend some time reading up on the work that faculty are doing within your department of interest.  Then, contact a faculty member whose work interests you.  

Search the website.
Type a few key words about work that interests you ("diabetes research" or "3D design research") into the uiowa.eduhome page search engine to find faculty or research articles published by faculty. If you see something exciting, look into the researcher more and get in touch with them!

Visit Hire-A-Hawk.
Hire-A-Hawk is run by the Pomerantz Career Center.  Among the many career-building tools that it offers, Hire-A-Hawk allows faculty members to advertise student-employee openings within their research and creative groups.  

Keep an eye on ICRU's webpage.
Look at "Open Research Position Listings" that ICRU lists.  We allow faculty members to advertise openings within their research and creative groups.  Check in regularly to see what is available.

Sign up for ICRU's Mailing List.
ICRU sends out a weekly newsletter that contains updates about the research positions that faculty members have listed on our website.  Just go to the "Contact Us" tab at the top of the page, click the link to sign up, and watch your inbox.  (Don't worry, you can sign off of the list at any time!)

Stop by ICRU's offices.
Again, ICRU is here to help.  Feel free to contact us for any assistance that you may need - from finding departmental webpages to drafting e-mails when you contact professors. 

Step 2: Contact Potential Mentors

Jenna talking to a mentor.

You should now have a faculty member (or a list of faculty members!) that you would be excited to work with.  Contacting potential mentors should be exciting rather than intimidating and overwhelming.  It may be a little daunting but follow these guidelines to take the stress out of contacting potential mentors.

Visit office hours.
Update your resume and take a copy with you to a faculty member's office hours. Be prepared to answer the questions on ICRU's "Things to think about" page in this section.

Send an email.
Sometimes visiting during office hours is not a viable option.  In this case, a simple email will suffice.  Remember, keep it short (5 sentences maximum), and include this information:

  • Your year in school
  • Your major and academic interests
  • What caught your eye about their work (be specific)

Conclude your email with a request for an in-person meeting to discuss the possibility of involvement.  Attach your resume or CV, if you have one ready.

Follow up.
Has it been a week with no response to an email?  Faculty are busy, so your email may have been inadvertently overlooked.  Send a follow-up email.  (We recommend no more than two follow-up emails.)  

Step 3: Make it count

ICRU always recommends getting your work counted on your transcript.  Visit our "Courses, Credits, & Certificates"section to see what this means for you!

There are many skills and benefits to be gained aside from the technical and critical thinking skills that research and creative scholarship teach.  ICRU and our campus partners host communications workshops, professional development events, and other resources to help you make the most of your experience.  You can find these in our Events page. 

Many students leave campus for shorter (summer or study-abroad semester) research experiences at universities both nation-wide and internationally.  Is this something that could be right for you?  Browse some of these experiences in our "Funding, Internships, and Paid Summer Experiences" page.

LPT: Be aware of how your involvement fits into your broader education and goals.  It is likely that this will come up in interviews or applications for graduate school and employment opportunities.

Remember: ICRU is here to help you at any step of the way.  Please call, email, or stop by our office with questions or comments!