Finding a mentor can seem exciting, intimidating, and daunting.  Faculty researchers are usually happy to discuss their work and educate others, especially with someone who is well-prepared for the conversation. 

Step 1: See what is out there

Make a list of faculty who research topics you are interested in. Here is how to find them:

Student doing computer search

Talk to an ICRU Research Ambassador.
ICRU Ambassadors are undergraduate researchers love their work and will share their enthusiasm. Email them!

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. Faculty usually know what research is happening.

Talk to your TAs.
Teaching Assistants have potential insider knowledge of research in their department. 

Scour departmental webpages.
Departmental webpages provide information and links to their faculty members' research. Start with "Research" or "People" sections to find who is doing what.

Search the website.
Type a few key words about work that interests you ("diabetes research" or "3D design research") into the home page search engine to find associated researchers.

Visit Handshake.
Handshake is run by the Pomerantz Career Center.  Handshake allows faculty members to advertise student-employee openings. 

Keep an eye on ICRU's webpage.
ICRU keeps a list of "Open Research Position Listings". Check in regularly to see what is available.

Sign up for ICRU's Mailing List.
ICRU sends out a weekly newsletter with open research positions and other opportunities. (Scroll all the way down to find a link!)

Stop by ICRU's office.
Again, ICRU is here to help.  Feel free to contact us for any assistance that you may need. 

Step 2: Contact Potential Mentors

Jenna talking to a mentor.

Contact the researcher(s) you most want to work with. Email is usually best, but students occasionally visit a faculty member during office hours.

*Not getting responses? It may be your email. READ THIS INFORMATION to find out why your email content matters.*

Send an email.
Emails should be short (~5 sentences at most) and direct. Include the following information:

  • Your year and major
  • Your research interest interests
  • What caught your eye about their work (be specific)
  • A request to meet.

Here is an example:

Dear Dr./Ms./Mr.,

I am a (your year) (your major) major at the UI. I am interested in learning more about research in (area of interest - Psychology, Genetics, 3D design, Museums, etc). Your research on (specific aspect of their work that caught your eye) looks fascinating. Would you have time to meet with me to talk a bit more about your work and the possibilities of getting involved in research in your area?

Sincerely/Thank you,

Your name

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 to show your continued interest. (We recommend no more than two follow-up emails.)  

Step 3: Make it count

ICRU always recommends getting your work counted on your transcript.  See "Courses, Credits, & Certificates" to learn more!

ICRU and our campus partners provide workshops, events, and other resources to help you gain benefits and skills outside of your research setting. Find more in "News". 

Off-campus research experiences are available nation-wide and internationally. Browse options: "Funding, Internships, and Paid Summer Experiences".

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!