Getting involved in independent laboratory research is a great opportunity. Doing a directed study provides unparalleled hands-on research experience and can help you maintain a strong GPA. In addition, the networking associated with undergraduate research may help you to get letters of recommendation for Graduate School, Medical School and Industry. We recommend that students get into a lab as soon as they can in the undergraduate career.

Finding a lab.

There are a few ways to find the lab that is a good fit for your interests. Go to the website of any department listed on our Requirements page. Here is a listing of some of our favorite resources for finding labs:

Neuroscience Training Program (NTP) research overview
NTP Trainers
NTP Affiliates

Wisconsin Discovery Portal

Undergraduate Neuroscience Society research website

WISCIENCE Spring 2024 Research Resources
Find a Mentor Workshops and Research Peer Leaders

Another great option is to think about joining one of these 1 credit seminars offered by WISCIENCE:
INTEGSCI 150 – Exploring Research in Science
INTEGSCI 260– Entering Research Part l
INTEGSCI 261– Entering Research Part ll

Contacting a Lab.

Once you have identified 4-6 labs on campus that you want to reach out to, you can draft your own email message to the faculty researcher. Here are some tips for writing the email:
1. Keep it short. Be respectful, yet efficient. (1 paragraph is adequate)
2. Include relevant information (Year, Major, GPA -if you are comfortable with this).
3. IMPORTANT -Refer to the mentor’s research, and especially what you find interesting about it.
4. Related to point three, what do you hope to gain from the research (i.e., experience for med-school, grad school etc., not just to fulfill a requirement)?
5. How many hours per week are you willing to commit? (For 3 credits, you should commit 9-10 hours per week).
6. Are you willing to commit multiple semesters?
7. Attach your resume (if you have one); indicate that your resume is attached for their convenience.

8. If you do not get a response in 7-10 days follow-up or send a new batch of emails. Note: Some faculty only respond after the second email. 

What course do I enroll in for research credits?

  • 699 – Or see the listing of accepted courses for Directed Study or contact your advisor.
  • 681/682 – Honors Thesis (2 semesters).
  • 691/692 – Senior Thesis (2 semesters).

How do I enroll in research credits?

  • You need to fill out a Directed Study Course Authorization form from your mentors department and return it to that department (Contact your advisor for more information).
  • There are many different Directed Study Authorization forms in different departments. Contact your advisor or mentor to figure out which form you need. Also we have some of them on our Resources page.
  • After your completed form is received, permission and instructions on how to enroll in research credits will be sent to you. Let us know if you have any questions about this process.

A reminder: Only Directed Study courses taken after – and not concurrent with – the completion of Introductory Biology are accepted in the major.

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