Participating in research as an undergraduate student

A photo of one of the vast bookshelves within the DePaul University John T. Richardson Library.

If you are planning on majoring in a STEM field, or even just want to expand on a topic that interests you, consider doing research! Research is an awesome way to get some practical experience in your field while you’re still completing your undergraduate degree. It was definitely an intimidating idea in my mind when I first considered it, but I am so happy I decided to start and it has been extremely worthwhile so far. In this post, I will share some information about my personal experience, and then give some tips for participating in research once you get on campus.

I am a computer science major, so my research may not be what you immediately think of when you think about the term. I am working on a project where we are analyzing data from a huge set of liver transplants that have occurred in the United States, and then we are trying to build an artificial intelligence model that will match new livers that become available to the best candidates on the transplant waiting list. The current system that is used for matching livers to recipients has a lot of room for improvement, and our initial work has shown some very promising results. For me personally, this experience is very fulfilling because I am using my skills and knowledge for a project that has the potential to really help a lot of people. I am also participating in this research through a program that is funded by a large tech company here in Chicago, so I get paid to work on this project and it is essentially my part-time job.



DePaul University student Jeff working in the Medical Informatics Lab in the Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media on DePaul’s Loop Campus.
A photo of the exterior of the John T. Richardson Library on the DePaul University Lincoln Park Campus.

If you are hoping to get on a research project, the number one tip I can give you is to work on creating relationships with your professors. If you have a class with a professor who you like, or you’re particularly interested in the classwork or even if you think you could tolerate working with that professor, I would highly suggest you work on developing a relationship with them. This means going to office hours, striking up conversations, and participating and being active in class. These things will help the professor remember you and more importantly show that you are truly interested in the topic. Once you are comfortable, ask the professor if they are doing research, and if they have any projects that you could help out with. It’s likely that they will try to make a spot available for you, and even if they can’t make it work they are also likely to connect you with other professors who do have spots available. 



This is the typical way to start doing research, but I was lucky enough to find a program at DePaul that pays me as well. If you stay open to new opportunities and are active within your major, opportunities will present themselves and allow you to gain some valuable experience.


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