Welcome! This page is a guide intended to help undergraduate physics and engineering physics majors navigate the resources, requirements, and opportunities of an Undergraduate Research Experience (URE).
Physics Undergraduate Research Program events:
The Department of Physics values student participation in research. In fact, a URE can be a component of several of the “plans” offered by the department (consult with your academic advisor/ faculy mentor and review the program requirements for either the Bachelor of Arts in Physics or the Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics).
Why should you participate in a URE?
To get the most out of your URE, you should be strategic in how to go about it. Study the advice and opportunities on this page and discuss your plans with your academic advisor.
Finally, for those doing research in experimental labs, remember that awareness of safety is important. Your mentor will be able to tell you about the required safety training for your lab or institute, but remember that ultimately YOU are responsible for the safety of yourself and those around you.
Most research opportunities are found by talking to your professors and asking around in local research groups and laboratories. Researchers may choose to promote available research opportunities in an email to undergraduate physics students.
It is important to put some thought into making your first contact with a researcher about a possible URE. Whatever you do, don’t simply send an email that asks “When can I start doing research with you?” Realize that mentoring a URE is a substantial commitment, and although researchers are often eager to take on a student, they want to be sure you have sufficient background and will take the job seriously. Some things to consider when preparing to contact a potential URE mentor:
You should arrange to be compensated for your time spent in a URE.
One option is to earn CU credit by signing up for either:
These options have a benefit of fulfilling requirements in several physics degree plans. Note to enroll in honors or independent study you must have previously located a research project and mentor.
Another option is to actually get paid for the hours in which you are not receiving course credit. The availability of paid opportunities varies based upon the discipline and your level of experience. Some paid opportunities are available directly through research advisors; other sources of funding are the University of Colorado programs and the REU (see below). The Discovery Learning Apprenticeship Program is available to Engineering Physics majors.
The University of Colorado UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program) provides funding for UREs campus-wide. For physics majors, two good options are:
UROP applications for both the Summer or Fall/Spring Academic year are due in mid February (check the UROP page for the exact deadlines). Note that you will need to have identified a research mentor before applying for funding.
The National Science Foundation sponsors the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in which undergraduates (typically, but not always, between their Junior and Senior years) are paid a stipend to work on a research project at universities and laboratories all over the United States. Typically, but not always, students travel to an institution other than their own. REU’s pay well and are great opportunities to expand one’s horizons. Applications are highly competitive.
Students are encouraged to take the Advanced Laboratory Course. This course can be a useful preparatory class for undergraduate research. It can also satisfy the research component of your physics electives.
The department’s research page is a great place to start looking for positions, but be sure to also look for opportunities in these department-affiliated programs:
In addition to this URE website, several programs provide information and support for UREs:
A URE does not need to be supervised by a physics faculty member or even carried out at the university! You are welcome to explore qualifying internships at local companies or programs for students at research laboratories in the area or further abroad. A few links to local scientific institutes are below.