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Getting Started in Research

After you declare chemistry as your major, begin thinking about what research areas interest you. There is a broad scope of areas and research often involves multiple disciplines. You can start by reading through our department’s faculty research areas. Don’t worry if you are not familiar with all the areas you read about. Get to know our faculty and ask questions. The faculty in our department welcome questions about their work and want to work with students who discover their interests overlap.

We encourage our majors to begin participating in research as early as possible, generally at the start of junior year. The reason for this is simply because experimentation takes time. It may be a while before you are able to obtain useful results. There is also a learning curve needed to be comfortable with procedures and techniques. We recommend you devote at least two semesters to research participation, but more is preferred. Three credits of research counts as one chemistry elective for our majors.

Once you have decided where your interests are, speak with your advisor or a faculty member who is doing research in your area of interest. It is OK to research with faculty in other departments, other universities, or in industry. Feel free to ask your advisor for help or advice.

Each spring John Carroll University hosts A Celebration of Scholarship where most students present their research and showcase their work. Some of our students present their research at other regional or national conferences and events. The longer you research and are able to obtain useful results, the more opportunity you gain to co-author publications as an undergraduate. We love to brag about our students, so you can view student research accomplishments (publications and presentations) here.

The American Chemical Society provides a wealth of information as you begin the process of getting involved with research. Here is their Guide to Undergraduate Research in Chemistry.

Employers and graduate/professional school committees look favorably upon undergraduate research. Research students also present their results, and will often be co-authors in scholarly publications

Statistics from the class of 2017 (Note for us - update to 2018 stats)

  • 78% of the students had a research experience in their junior year
  • 78% had a research experience in their senior year
  • 65% had a research experience in both junior and senior years
  • The places our students researched varied:
    • Industry
    • JCU/other universities
    • Cleveland Clinic Foundation/Metrohealth
    • Others had internships outside of chemistry in business and law
Who can do research in the chemistry department?

Anyone. You do not even need to be a chemistry major. Likewise, chemistry majors can look for opportunities of interest outside of their home department.

When is the best time to do undergraduate research?

Typically, we recommend beginning research your junior year. We also recommend that you plan to continue your research for at least one year. If you are able to continue beyond one year, then that is even better. It takes time to begin producing results that are productive. The longer you spend researching, the more opportunity you will have to gain useful results and possibly co-author publications on the results.

How many hours per week does research take?

Research is a variable credit course. The rule of thumb is one credit corresponds to roughly four-five hours/week; two credits eight-10 hours/week. Your first semester in a lab, one credit is usually appropriate. You and your research mentor must agree upon the number of credits at the start of the semester. Most labs are quite flexible about when this work takes place, and your time should be scheduled in large enough blocks of time to actually complete some lab work while you are there. The schedule of the faculty member with whom you are working will also need to be considered when planning your work schedule.

How do I find a research project/mentor?

Start by looking over the faculty research areas on our website. The faculty are listed with their division of chemistry and their research specialty. You can also look at faculty in other departments to see if their research matches your interest. Choose faculty whose work interests you, then talk to them. Face-to-face meetings are more effective than emails. Ask what kinds of projects students have been assigned in the past, what potential projects you might have, who would work with you as you learn the ropes, and how many hours you would be expected to work.

What do I do once I have identified a research mentor?

You will need departmental approval before you can register. And you will need to complete safety training before beginning work in the lab.

Can I get paid to do undergraduate research?

During the academic year, research is usually done for credit. However, during the summer, research typically is a paid position. There are a number of ways in which you can secure funding for the summer months: fellowships, internships, REU programs, or directly from faculty grants. Your chances of getting a paid position are always better if you have some existing research experience.

Should I spend my summers working in a lab at John Carroll or look elsewhere for summer research opportunities?

There are pros and cons to each option. It is difficult to be productive in research during the semester, so students who stay over the summer can make great progress that may lead to publication. On the flip side, research programs and internships done elsewhere allow you the opportunity to see and experience different areas of science and potential career paths and broaden your network. You should pursue the summer opportunities that are most appealing to you.