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“Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing.”

- Wernher von Braun, rocket scientist.

Q: What is undergraduate research?

A: Undergraduate research is collaboration between a faculty mentor and an undergraduate student in original research, scholarly activity, and/or creative activity with the goal of publication, presentation, performance, or exhibition of the results or product.

Q: Why should I do research as an undergraduate?

A: Undergraduate research is an enriching process by which you gain skills and learn more about a subject interesting to you.  There is no one reason for doing research; different students would tell you a myriad of answers.  Go to Student Perspectives to hear the reasons other students at APSU did an undergraduate research project.

Q: I’m not a science major…can I still do research?

A: Absolutely!

One of the greatest myths about research is that it involves supercomputing and lots of test tubes. The truth of the matter is that research is limitless and has unbelievable freedom. Professors in the humanities and social sciences have supported undergraduate research for years. There are also many interdisciplinary projects that transcend departments. Seek out faculty that you want to work with and talk to them about your particular interests; they would love to help you.

Q: Do I have to wait until I’m a junior or senior to conduct research?

A: Not necessarily.  Some faculty request upper class students, but freshmen and sophomores can explore their options by volunteering in labs and just talking with other students involved in research.  Through this process, they develop the necessary skill set and move on to the positions that really interest them during junior and senior year.  Take your schedule into consideration and get involved in undergraduate research when you’re ready.   

If you’re interested in learning more, please come to one of the OUR Socials to meet other students interested in research.  Click the Events tab on the sidebar menu to see what’s on the calendar this semester.

Q: What if I have my own project in mind?

A: The first step involves developing familiarity with your field of interest. You’d benefit from taking classes that relate to the project you someday hope to complete. This will introduce you to the elementary material and to the professors who love the subject. Read on your own and pursue your project as the passion that it is.

Second, talk with faculty to find someone who may share your interests.  You need to identify a faculty member who is willing to mentor you in your project.  Perhaps your advisor can recommend a faculty member in that subject area.

Third, consider applying to become a Presidential Research Scholar.  APSU funds a number of independent undergraduate projects every year.  Go to PRS Program to learn more. 

Q: How do I find out about research opportunities?

A: The most valuable resources are fellow students. If you ask a student researcher at APSU how they got started, chances are they'll tell you a story full of persistence on their part and often, a friend of a friend. Networking is a great tool that enables you to learn about the opportunities immediately available. Join student organizations such as clubs in your major to hear about what students do under the leadership of faculty members. They'll be more than willing to share their stories about how they got involved.

You can find research opportunities by talking to your professors. For example, you could start out doing background research which could lead to your own project. Sometimes professors will announce in class that they are looking for students to help them with a particular project.

Finally, research opportunities are posted on this OUR website and in different departmental offices. One of the goals of OUR is to connect interested students with projects and faculty.  Go to the Help Wanted page to see some current openings.

Q: How do I find a faculty advisor for my project?

A: Just like finding a job, you must network to find an advisor.  Generally, professors that you’ve had in class are a great place to start. You may also consider asking other student researchers who are their faculty mentors.  You want to identify someone you can trust.

OUR maintains a list of faculty members interested in involving undergraduates in their research areas. Go to the Find a Faculty Mentor page to view this list.

Some students work well with constant direction and others work with almost none.  Understanding yourself and what motivates you will help you find an advisor with whom you are comfortable.  Your faculty advisor has a commitment to help you learn and he/she will likely become a friend and mentor well past graduation.

Q: How do I know which faculty are doing research?

A: Take the initiative and do your homework.

Faculty are involved in dynamic work that changes from day to day. There is, usually, a theme and a particular niche in which a given faculty member will work.  You can start by visiting department websites. If you're interested in science consider visiting the biology, chemistry, geology, or physics site to find out about what is going on in the individual departments.  

Individual faculty webpages can also be a great starting point.  Try clicking on the faculty members name on a department homepage – often that will take you to their personal website.  Occasionally, however, there are those faculty who have research interests that are not so obvious.  Be open to different types of projects and don’t be shy about requesting an appointment to talk with a faculty member about research.

Network with fellow students; they can be your best resource when it comes to sharing what they find interesting about faculty. You may also get insight regarding who will best match your interests.

Q: Can I do a project outside of my major department?


Austin Peay is increasing the emphasis on and there are opportunities to pursue any and all interests. Taking time to pursue research outside of your major and department is a great chance to explore and become a well-rounded student. Often, you’ll learn that the techniques and principles applied in a given field relate to the one you are studying. Interdisciplinary study is a powerful tool that you will develop as a person and be useful long after you leave Austin Peay. 

Q: How can I get funding?

A: Go to the Funding $$$ tab on the sidebar menu to learn about the funding opportunities available from OUR.  You may want to consider applying to be Presidential Research Scholar (PRS) or a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow (SURF)

Funding may also be available from your major department and/or external grants.  Consult with your faculty mentor about these possibilities.

Application deadlines are often in January and February, so start early!

Q: How much time will a project take?

A: It depends.

When you are initially considering whether to become involved in undergraduate research, you should think about the level of commitment you are willing to make. Undergraduate research is a mutual arrangement between you and your faculty mentor.

Some students work in excess of twenty hours per week; sometimes they are working towards a course credit. Students volunteering in a lab may work two to three hours per week. It is really a decision that you and a faculty advisor must make. There are varying levels of commitment that will fit into your schedule. You must simply communicate what you want to learn and make sure that you are in control of personal time management.

Q: Who can I talk to in the Office of Undergraduate Research for help?

A: Contact the OUR Graduate Assistant (Laura Zahn, our@apsu.edu, (931) 221-7625) to schedule an appointment.We would love to help you!

Need more help getting started? The Web Guide to Research for Undergraduates (WebGURU) is an interactive web-based tool intended to assist undergraduates navigate the hurdles of an undergraduate research experience.  > Learn more




"I have really enjoyed my research experience. I have met a lot of faculty and staff through the process and have felt the network of support that is in place. I also feel more confident and capable."

- Vanessa Cassidy