How to Get Involved in Undergraduate Research at Berkeley

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Getting involved in research at UC Berkeley can be an exciting but daunting prospect as a new student, but there are plenty of opportunities to help along the journey.

UC Berkeley is one of the largest research universities in the United States, as well as in the world. Campus uses its research funding to facilitate 35 core facilities across multiple departments in STEM fields, as well as to fund projects toward the individual research goals of its many distinguished faculty.

“The university has a long heritage of innovations and leaders who have created groundbreaking products, groundbreaking companies, and entirely new industries,” reads the campus research website.

According to the campus research website, the current faculty includes 10 Nobel Laureates, six Turing Award recipients, one Fields Medal recipient, and 15 National Medal of Science winners among many other accomplishments.

Navigating how to approach the many specialized areas of research can be daunting, which is why the campus has several resources to guide students.

The largest campus-wide program is the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program, or URAP. According to Stephanie Ebeling, program manager and advisor for URAP, the program accepts 1,650 to 1,850 students each semester to work alongside faculty and research staff.

The URAP provides a structured approach to applying and lists specific requirements for positions. The program limits each student to three applications per semester.

“Not only do (students) learn how research is done in the respective field, they also learn to be part of a research community,” Ebeling said in an email. “Many continue to do their independent research project with the help of programs such as the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program or the Haas Fellowship Program.

The URAP Fall 2022 application is currently open and closes August 29 at 9 a.m. Applying for a URAP position requires a UC Berkeley GPA of at least 2.8, although freshmen can apply without one. Applicants must also submit an expression of interest and list all relevant courses for research.

If a student is interested in a research area not listed on URAP, they can also use other avenues to get involved.

The Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarships, or OURS, provides an overview of these programs. They also run workshops on a variety of topics, from writing a research proposal to emailing professors.

“OURS seeks to more fully integrate undergraduate students into the dynamic and diverse research life of UC Berkeley,” the office’s website reads. “The center does this through a wide range of programs, workshops, partnerships and communication platforms.”

Individual colleges and departments also have resources to help undergraduate students participate in research.

The STEM Resources and Training, or STAR, website provides information on STEM opportunities. It contains guides and databases on research areas that UC Berkeley students can access. The engineering department has a website called BeeHive, with similar resources focused on engineering disciplines.

However, these opportunities are not limited to STEM fields, with at least seven different colleges and departments offering specialized resources for aspiring undergraduate scholars. Haas Scholars, for example, accepts 20 students with financial need each year.

“Haas Fellows receive close mentorship from UC-Berkeley faculty members, seminars and workshops to help them through the research and writing process, the opportunity to present their work at a professional conference and up to $13,800 each in financial support,” the Haas Scholars program website reads.

Another option is to simply approach the professors directly. This is often done by email or by attending office hours. When taking this approach, it’s prudent to prepare a resume and cover letter in advance.

The Berkeley Career Center provides guidance on how to make these materials. Additionally, viewing the desired professor’s website and understanding their work can demonstrate their interest in their field.

OURS recommends approaching several professors to maximize the chances of finding a research position, as there are many vacancies each semester.

“The success of our programs and our councils demonstrates that undergraduate students at Cal are profoundly transformed through their engagement in research projects,” reads the OURS website.

Contact Ratul Mangal at [email protected]

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