There are millions of questions leading scholars and researchers attempt to address everyday. Why not give them a hand?
While research is largely necessary for students looking to major in health sciences, that shouldn’t stop students from other disciplines from exploring research opportunities. Moreover, research opportunities are typically available to students at four year “research institutions” which are essentially the majority of four year colleges. However, this shouldn’t stop students at the community college level from exploring research opportunities.
Note: Many research opportunities are highly competitive and will require months of preparation. Make sure to start your search early (the Fall/Winter) for many programs which begin in the Summer. Many program applications will require letters of recommendation, application essay, and interview. These programs are typically highly competitive, so be sure to sharpen your interview skills and resume prior to applying!
Summer Research Opportunities for Community College Students
School Sponsored Programs:
Stanford Community College Premedical Program: Learn More
CIRES Research Experience for Community College Students: Learn More
Transfer to Excellence (TTE) Summer Research Program: Learn More
USC Bridge Undergraduate Science Program: Learn More
Private Organization Sponsored Programs:
Oak Crest Institute of Science Community College Research: Learn More
Bixel Exchange Technology Internship: Learn More
Government Sponsored Programs:
National Institute of Health (NIH) Bridges to the Baccalaureate Research Training Program: Learn More
Community College Internship at Berkeley Lab: Learn More
Consortium for Undergraduate Research Experiences (CURE): Learn More
Community College Research Internship for Scientific Engagement (CC-RISE): Learn More
NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars: Learn More
National Sciences Foundation Community College Innovation Challenge: Learn More
National Science Foundation Community College Research Team: Learn More
US Department of Energy Community College Internship Program: Learn More
List of research opportunities curated by the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative: Learn More
Research Opportunities Open To All Undergraduate Students
SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship)
- Most universities sponsor a form of SURF program for undergraduate students where students partner with a faculty member from a university and submit a proposal to receive funding for a research project.
- SURF programs will require you to find a faculty sponsor to support your research project
REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates)
- There are thousands of REU opportunities available each year sponsored by various governments and universities.
- REU’s are typically summer programs which accept applications in the preceding fall and spring, so make sure to keep an eye out for these programs and apply early!
- Here are a few databases which track and update REU opportunities
Here are some examples of broad research programs sponsored by universities and companies available to undergraduate students. Remember, opportunities like the ones listed below are largely available across all universities, science-based companies, and government organizations across the United States.
- USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies (REU)
- Amgen Scholars Program (Undergraduate Summer Research Program in Biotechnology)
- SURF program at UCLA
- SURF program at Berkeley
- SURF program at Caltech
- SURF program at UCI
- National Science Foundation Summer Research Program
- Pepperdine Undergraduate Research Program in Biology
Year Round Research
Professors at universities across the United States are always conducting research in addition to their role as an instructor. While many research opportunities with university professors are typically conducted and funded through a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, there are opportunities to conduct research with professors directly.
Here are some high level steps on how to approach finding research opportunities with professors or principal investigators (PI) in your area.
Explore a research topic that interests you. Some common questions our students have had include:
- What are the most efficient types of solar panels?
- How to encourage adoption of renewable energy in suburban communities?
- How to address homelessness in Los Angeles County?
- How effectiveness is the community college system in addressing income inequality?
- What is the best way to learn a new language?
- Why are drug prices so expensive?
As you might have noticed research topics can be broad and are born out of curiosity.
Find a topic you’d love to explore and would enjoy writing about.
Find a professor/principal investigator who is currently conducting research that aligns with your research goals
If you have a topic that interests you, in google, type in <local university name> + <research topic that interests you> + research. A simple google search should yield some ongoing research and publications conducted by researchers at universities near you.
For example, when I was looking for research opportunities, I was curious about the pricing of drugs in today’s healthcare ecosystem. A simple google search of “USC” (my local university) + “drug pricing healthcare” (research topic) + “research” yielded several publications and articles conducted by USC faculty.
If you’re unsure of a research topic, in google, type in <local university name> + <research center>. A simple google search should yield the various research centers and a list of ongoing research being conducted by the university. Take a read of some of the ongoing research objectives being conducted and see if any of the research goals resonate with you.
Once you’ve chosen a research topic that interests you and a professor who is conducting similar research, reach out and see if there would be any opportunity for you to shadow their research or volunteer on their team. However, before reaching out to the professor, make sure to do the following:
Gain a thorough understanding of the professor’s past research.
- What does the professor specialize in?
- What are their key areas of focus?
- What are the professor’s beliefs and ideologies?
- Given the professor’s beliefs, would you feel comfortable supporting their research?
Gain a thorough understanding of the professor’s current research goals.
- Why are you passionate about what the research team is doing?
- How would this research align with your future academic goals? Career goals?
- What do you currently know about the research topic that could make you a valuable undergraduate researcher?
Send an email to the professor, explain why their research excites you, and how you’d like to contribute. With luck, a researcher in your area will have an opportunity for you to contribute to their ongoing research!