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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can any student do undergraduate research?
A: Yes!  It all depends on how proactive you wish to be.  Some programs or departments have requirements (class standing, GPA, etc.) but there are plenty of additional opportunities to supplement or complement department programs. Talk to your professors, classmates, and advisors about your interests and passions.

Q: What opportunities are available to undergraduates?
A: Opportunities are so common and varied that it is hard to list all of them comprehensively. Most students who show an interest find research opportunities with professors and graduate students. Some students work for a few hours per week for a semester or two, just to try it out. For other students, research is the focus of their Vanderbilt experience by the time they are juniors and seniors. Research opportunities exist on campus for students in any school and any major. Some students spend their summers doing research through programs like the VUSRP, and others pursue research opportunities off campus at government labs, industry labs, or at other universities.

Q: Are undergraduates allowed to conduct research outside of their chosen major or school?
A: Students are encouraged to pursue research that may be outside of their major or even outside of their school. Involvement depends on the discretion of the professor conducting the research and not on a student’s declared major and minor, though students are encouraged to consider what they will bring to a particular research project.

Q: Are there opportunities for students to conduct research at the Vanderbilt Medical Center?
A: Absolutely! Students can pursue medical research opportunities through the Health Professions Advisory Office. Some students read about professors’ research projects in the Medical Center on the Vanderbilt University Medical Center website and email professors directly to find out if they can be involved. Students also may apply for clinical research projects through the Vanderbilt Clinical Research Connection.

Q: How soon can I get involved in research as an undergraduate?
A: Some proactive students get involved in research as soon as the second semester of their first year, but most students who participate in research get involved after their first year. Though it can be tempting to jump into doing research right away, students interested in research are encouraged to spend time reaching out to professors and to students with research experience to find the opportunities in which they will be the most passionate and gain the best experience, instead of committing to whatever opportunity seems most convenient right away.

Q. How much of a time commitment is undergraduate research?
A: The time commitment between research projects can vary widely, although our recent survey of students suggests that most students involved in research spend between 3 to 12 hours per week dedicated to research activities. Most Vanderbilt summer programs are advertised as full-time positions (approximately 40 hours per week), so students may not be able to both do undergraduate research and take summer classes simultaneously.

Q: Am I responsible for finding my own funding?
A: Not likely. Most research projects are paid for by a professors’ research funding. Some students earn stipends through a research program or earn scholarship money awarded through programs advertised through the Office of Honor Scholarships or through other sources.

Q: Are there opportunities to publish and/or present at professional conferences as an undergraduate?
A: Yes! About 12% of students in our survey reported that they have published their research, so it is certainly a possibility! Students can apply to have their research published in the Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal, which is a peer-reviewed indexed journal. Also based on our survey, 9% of students presented their works at conferences that were off-campus. Students should consult with a faculty mentor about opportunities to present at academic conferences.

Q: Can I get academic credit for research?
A: Yes, in some cases. It depends on the research opportunity and the guidelines of your department. Survey results show that nearly one third of all Vanderbilt students have received some kind of academic credit for their research.

Q: Is research a required part of the undergraduate experience?
A: While research is optional at all four schools, many departments have honors programs that require research. In the College of Arts & Science, departmental honors students are required to do research. Eligibility for departmental honors varies by department and typically students enter the honors program during their junior year. At Peabody College, first-year students can apply to the Peabody Scholars Program. In this program, juniors are required to engage in an independent research project with a Peabody professor. In the School of Engineering, students in honors programs are required to do an independent study and/or research. The Blair School of Music has an honors program in Music Literature and History that requires independent study and a senior honors thesis.