ATOC undergraduates participating in research should arrange to be compensated for their time. A student must decide whether to gain research experience inside or outside of ATOC, and also whether they'd like to receive course credit or monetary funding for their efforts. 

ATOC undergraduates can gain research experience while receiving course credit by signing up for independent study hours, Honors thesis hours, or a for-credit external intership:

  • ATOC 4900 (1-3 credits) - Independent Study
    • Students work independently on a research topic under the guidance of a faculty member
    • Repeatable for up to 6 total credit hours
  • ATOC 4950 (1-3 credits) - Honors Thesis
    • Students work independently on an original piece of research under the guidance of a faculty member
    • Honors students can use this time to write their Honors thesis, or to develop their presentation for their upcoming Honors defense
    • Restricted to students with 57-180 credit hours (typically 3rd year or higher)
    • With very few exceptions, students must have a GPA of 3.3 or higher to work on an Honors thesis project
  • ATOC 4990 (1-3 credits) - Internship
    • Students gain research experience by working with an agency outside of ATOC (e.g., NOAA, Google, etc.)
    • Students are assigned an ATOC faculty member to oversee the internship activities and progress
    • Repeatable for up to 6 total credit hours

To enroll in either ATOC 4900, 4950, or 4990 a student must have previously located a research project and mentor. For ATOC majors, note that up to six credit hours in ATOC 4900, 4950, or 4990 can apply towards the twelve credit hour requirement for 4000-level methods courses.

A second option for ATOC undergraduates gaining research experience is to get paid for their research time in lieu of receiving course credit. The availability of paid opportunities varies semester to semester and also varies with your level of experience. While some paid opportunities are available directly through research advisors, there are many funding sources available within federal and University of Colorado programs as well:


The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, offers research stipends for undergraduates to work on research projects at numerous universities and laboratories across the United States. Most students travel for these projects to places other than their primary institution, which can often help transform and diversify their conceptions of a particular research topic. REU stipends are generous yet competitive, so be sure to get started early if you intend to apply for one. 


The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), sponsored by the University of Colorado, provides funding campus-wide funding for undergraduate research projects and conference presentations. 

  • Assistantships, with stipends from $1000-$2000, allow students to assist a mentor on an existing or upcoming project and do not require an original student proposal
  • Individual Grants, with stipends from $1500-$2000, allow students partial or complete ownership of a project and thus require an original student proposal 
  • The Professional & Academic Conference Endowment (PACE) offers funding for undergraduates to present, perform or exhibit their work at conferences and exhibitions
  • Faculty Team Grants, with stipends up to $3,000, allow for collaborative projects using student teams (i.e., two or more students)

UROP applications for both the Summer and Fall/Spring Academic year are due in mid February (check the UROP page for the exact deadlines). Students must identify a research mentor before applying for funding.


The Summer Multicultural Access to Research Training (SMART) Scholarship at the University of Colorado Boulder offers hands-on research internships for rising juniors and seniors for a 10-week period during the summer. The program aims to improve access to STEM research for racial/ethnic groups which are underrepresented in science, math, and engineering (African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native/ Native Pacific Islander), and for first-generation college students who are economically disadvantaged. Students with disabilities are also welcome to apply.

Other Broad Funding Options​

Outside the Department 

Your undergraduate research may be performed outside the university at a national laboratory, local company, or other program. In this case, a research professional at your chosen program will be your primary mentor, and ATOC will only assign a faculty member to overview your assignment if your internship is unpaid and is applied for CU course credit (i.e., taken as ATOC 4990, Internship). A short list of local scientific institutes that often have research opportunities are below:

A list of relevant internship boards and specific external internships may help you find just the right opportunity: