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What is research?

  • Undergraduate research is defined by the Council on Undergraduate Research as “an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original, intellectual, or creative contribution to the discipline.”
  • Research is experimentation, answering questions, analysis, exploration, inquiry, investigation, creation, study, examination, reasoning, imagining, composing, designing, formulating, establishing, interpreting… the list of synonyms goes on and on!
  • Research takes place in labs, in libraries and research centers, in the field, in communities, in studios, in space, on land, underwater, on your computer, in your head, and beyond.
  • Research at Hopkins is more than just checking a box on your resume/ CV or filling a requirement for your major.

What’s in it for you?

  • Explore your curiosity and make impactful discoveries, changes or improvements to an issue or problem;
  • Create or design something new – a film, product, company, program, a (insert your idea);
  • Grow as an independent and critical thinker;
  • Advance your analytical and problem-solving skills;
  • Apply concepts learned in class to simulated or real-life situations.
  • Increase your skill and knowledge of cutting edge equipment and techniques;
  • Expanding your network through collaborations;
  • Strengthen written, visual and oral communication skills.


Consider details

Find mentors

CONSIDER when it makes the most sense for YOU to begin a research opportunity.

  • Jump right in as a freshman or wait until later in your undergraduate career.
  • Limit your research commitment to breaks when you have no classes (summer, winter, etc).
  • Schedule your research around classes (obviously), sports, part-time jobs, or other commitments.
  • Research for a semester (although for many areas, a year minimum is more beneficial).
  • Participate in one opportunity or try different projects over your undergraduate career as your interests evolve.

CREATE a list of topics or areas that pique your curiosity (no matter how obscure they may seem). Include a few key words for each. These should be things that fascinate you, areas you feel driven to explore, problems you want to solve, or something mentioned in a class that you want to gain a deeper knowledge of!

The more excited you are about a topic, the more successful you will be!

SEARCH for researchers with similar interests and/ or open opportunities:

  • Use    and a search engine to narrow your search.
  • Always use ‘Hopkins’ or ‘JHU’ and ‘research’ along with your key words to refine your results when using a search engine.
  • Check out relevant department, research, lab or faculty websites.
  • Network with your friends and classmates.
  • Speak with your professors, TAs, advisors, departments, and research librarians.
  • Look for posted open positions on ForagerOne. Sometimes research opportunities will be posted on Handshake (esp. outside Hopkins), and SMILE.
  • You can also find opportunities through Global Education Office (GEO), the Center for Social Concern and other Hopkins departments and offices.

THINK about your requirements.

It is up to YOU to find the balance that fits your life.

  • How many hours can you commit per week, balancing your other obligations (inc. classes, activities, sports, jobs, study time, relaxation)?
  • Are there days you cannot research because of other obligations?
  • Are you able to research on another campus (keep in mind travel time)?
  • Can you research for experience (volunteer) or do you need academic credit or pay?
    • Most undergraduates volunteer for research just to gain experience.
    • HOUR does NOT grant academic credit for research. We will help you find opportunities, but you must get approval from your advisor for the project to qualify for academic credit. The opportunity must meet specific and unique program/ major requirements.
    • In some cases you can be paid or even have your research position count as your federal work study job. These are not as common.
    • The average undergraduate participates in research for 8 – 10 hours per week during the academic year or full time over breaks (summer, winter, intersession) pursuing experiential opportunities.

Create a shortlist

Contact mentors

Follow up

REVIEW your list, prioritizing your strongest interest areas to contact first.

Did you know you can find faculty email addresses at
Log in and enter the name in the search box at the top right.

CONTACT the faculty member or researcher in person or by email.

Hint: You are a colleague of even the most “elite” faculty member. You may be a junior colleague, but you are a colleague!

  • In person – Drop by their office or lab and ask if they (or someone in their group) has time to speak with you. If not, send an email. Note: This is only applicable for Homewood based contacts. Have a scheduled appointment for all interactions on other campuses. This saves you time and stress as other campuses have different security protocols and faculty often have offices, labs, and departments in different buildings making them a challenge to randomly track down!
  • By Email – Do NOT send a form email (*sort of)!
    • Always use your JHU email address. This legitimizes your inquiry and shows professionalism.
    • Always BCC yourself. This allows for easier follow up later.
    • Keep your email brief. It should not read longer than a single screen on a smart phone. If they need to scroll, they mostly likely will not read the email at all.
    • Do not send your resume/ CV or other documents on the initial contact email. You just want to get your foot in the door! But have it ready to send when they request it.
    • Subject: example interest in UG research (shadowing, or other) opportunity (do not use ALL CAPS)
    • Use a professional greeting until invited to be less formal: Dear “Dr. Jones” or “Dear Professor Jones” as you prefer. Using their first name is appropriate once invited (if they respond to your email “Sincerely, Mary” then you can move forward using their first name).
    • Sentence 1: Introduce yourself (name, class, major)
    • Sentence 2: *this is the section that is different for each contact: Briefly mention something in their research that interests you or specific topics/ areas you want to focus on. Do not be afraid to ‘stroke their ego’ a little. Everyone likes to hear how great they are! It is ok to expand to 2- 3 sentences, but try to keep it as brief as possible – remember, they are usually reading emails on their phone!
    • Sentence 3: Request a meeting to discuss your interests and research opportunities available. Offer to send reference documents for their review (resume/CV, recommendations, personal statement, transcript as applicable). Provide the best way to contact you (email, cell, other). And always close by thanking them for their time/ consideration.

FOLLOW UP if you do not receive a response within 3 – 4 days.

  • Faculty receive hundreds of emails per day and have many other obligations. A lack of response is not a personal slight.
  • Polite persistence is key. You are not stalking or harassing and you will not get blocked; you are professionally following up.
  • Send follow-up emails – just reply all to the email copy now in your inbox (from BCCing). “I am following up on my previous email, below, regarding…” or “I am following up on my email of October 5th…”
  • These follow-up emails can be sent every 3-4 days if you have not received a response.
  • You can keep sending follow-up emails 3, 4, 5 times (until you feel you are done trying)
  • If you are unsuccessful in getting a response you can:
    • Email a final email asking if there is someone else in their group you could speak to (a post doc or grad student) or for a referral to a colleague doing similar research.
    • Find a lab or research group page and contact a postdoc or grad student with your inquiry, letting them know you have tried to contact the mentor with no success. Ask them if they have time to discuss opportunities.

Be punctual

Ask questions

Thank them

BE PROFESSIONAL and polite in ALL interactions. Arrive on time, neatly dressed and prepared.

PREPARE – Ask if there is anything you should review in advance of your meeting. Review their research so you are ready to discuss projects. Have any requested documents ready to bring or send for review.


  • Be upfront with your expectations (time commitment and availability, compensation, goals)
  • Ask about their expectations:
    • Are there any trainings, classes, or readings to complete prior to starting?
    • Are their lab, group, or journal club meetings you are expected to attend?
    • Will you be required to present on your project at a group or lab meeting, write a paper at the end of the semester, or create a poster and present at an event?
  • Address conflicts:
    • If you have class or other conflicts during days/ times they expect you to be present, discuss them during interview to see if there is a compromise.
    • If there is no compromise, thank them when declining and ask for a referral to a colleague doing similar research.

THANK THEM for considering you whether you are selected or not.

  • If you are not selected, ask them if they have other colleagues they could refer you to.
  • If you are offered a position and like the opportunity – CONGRATULATIONS!

BAD experiences happen. Not every opportunity is beneficial. The good news is you are not stuck. There are so many researchers across the university, you can leave an opportunity and move on. If you are researching for credit, you just have to get through that semester and you can move on.

NEVER ghost!

 There are many reasons why an opportunity may not be working for you –

  • You are assigned menial tasks or ‘assembly line’ tasks that are not expanding your knowledge;
  • The research is not what you expected/ not useful toward your goals;
  • There is a personality conflict or the research group is not friendly and inclusive;
  • And others not mentioned.

What to do?

  • If the research is unsatisfying, have a conversation with your mentor or professor/ PI to discuss opportunities to grow, attain more skills, and achieve some independence. If the opportunity is just not there, thank them for the time they invested in you and let them know you will be withdrawing from the project.
  • If the research is not useful toward achieving your goals, have a conversation with your mentor or the professor/ PI about your goals and if this opportunity can grow into something better with commitment. If it can’t, thank them for the time they invested in you and ask if they can refer you to a colleague that better fits your interests.
  • If there is a personality conflict or uncomfortable atmosphere, you can try speaking with the professor/ PI if you are comfortable with them. Most likely you just want to get out! You conversation should then be with your mentor or the professor/ PI thanking them for the opportunity, telling them it not what you expected and you will be withdrawing from the opportunity to leave it for another student that might better benefit. (This might be a little fib, but you are not burning any bridges!)

Remember – If the problem cannot be resolved, always extract yourself politely and graciously (even if you are fibbing a little). You never want to burn a bridge. It will come back and bite you in the end!

Can I get paid AND receive academic credit for research?

  • YES! The university made this change effective AY 2022-2023.

Volunteering (with no pay or academic credit received)

Am I allowed to participate in research, clinical, or shadowing opportunities as a volunteer?

  • Yes, any Hopkins student in good standing is allowed to participate in any research, clinical, or shadowing opportunity in any division or office of the Johns Hopkins Institution with or without compensation as long as it has educational value.
  • Please see the University Volunteer/ Visitor Flow Chart for guidance and links to the detailed policies. This can be shared and/ or downloaded to help clarify university guidelines with your mentor or other departments and leadership.

Academic Credit

How many credits can be earned for independent research, internship, or independent study?

  • You may earn up to 6 credits for independent work per academic year. The academic year begins in the summer.
  • You can register for 1 to 3 credits of independent research or internship work in the summer, fall, intersession, or spring terms until the 6-credit limit is reached.
  • 40 hours of work (over a semester) equals 1 academic credit hour
  • Internships can earn 1 credit per term and count toward the 6-credit maximum of independent work per academic year.
  • Independent research for credit requires vary between majors. Always check with your academic or faculty advisor to verify your project qualifies.

How do I register to receive credit for independent research?

  • You may register as soon as class registration is open for a given semester.
  • The deadline for fall or spring semester is the Friday of the 6th full week of the semester. The deadline for summer or intersession is the same as the deadline for adding a class in those terms. There are no exceptions to these deadlines!
  • Find position/ project and confirm the faculty member will serve as the faculty sponsor for the project.
    • If it is a Homewood (ASEN) faculty, just confirm credits, grading method, course title, assignments.
    • If the faculty member is not Homewood appointed (School of Med, Public Health, SAIS, etc.), you will need to identify a Homewood faculty member that is willing to act as sponsor for the project (so they can post your grades to SIS). Your mentor and faculty sponsor will communicate to confirm credits, grading method, course title, assignments with each other and you.
    • Your faculty advisor can often serve this role. If not, check with your academic advisor for guidance.
  • Go to SIS, under the registration menu and click Online Forms, and select Independent Academic Work.
  • Complete the form, providing full explanations where needed, and submit the form.
  • The form will go directly to your faculty sponsor for approval. Once the sponsor approves it, it will show in your Confirmed Enrollments screen in SIS.

How do I identify the correct course number?

  • All Krieger and Whiting departments have research numbers that can be found by doing a course search in SIS and unchecking the tiny box that say “exclude IAW.”
  • Ask your academic or faculty advisor to help you identify the correct course number.
  • Visiting students should contact their Global Education Office advisor for assistance.

What is a faculty sponsor?

A faculty sponsor is a full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty member in KSAS or WSE or another faculty member specifically designated to serve as a faculty sponsor. Your faculty sponsor is responsible for determining the appropriate academic product you will submit for grading and will submit your grade and award credits in SIS at the end of the term. The academic product you will produce is determined at the time of registration, not after you have completed the experience.

How will I be graded for my research?

Research can be conducted either for a letter grade or for S/U. Some majors have requirements for research and may define specific rules for any research used to complete a major requirement. You must have an academic product at the end of the term that can be evaluated. Again, check with your major department or your faculty sponsor for more details. You should be clear about this expectation when you register for research.

Do I have to pay to register for independent research in the summer?

No, you are not charged tuition for registering for research, internship, or independent study credits during the summer.

Can I register for more than one independent opportunity in a semester?

Yes, but only for a total of 3 credits per semester (6 per academic year)


How can I find a paid research position?

  • There are very few paid research positions offered across the university.
  • Paid positions are usually based on a faculty member’s funding flexibility. Most grants do not account for undergraduate pay.
  • Faculty posting projects on ForagerOne may identify their opportunity type as paid.
  • Look for funding opportunities in HOUR’s Programs Database
  • If you require funding to be able to participate in research opportunities, please contact, come to office hours, or schedule a meeting with staff to discuss options.

General Hourly Pay Guide

  • JHU has committed to a minimum wage of $15.00/hour, including for undergraduate students in paid positions.
  • Wages will likely vary by the skills required and experience the employee has.
  • JHU students may work no more than 20 hours/week for JHU employers during Fall and Spring semesters.

Experience/ Volunteer

The vast majority of undergraduates participate in research opportunities just for the experience to expand their knowledge or determine their interest in a particular field or specialized area.

Undergraduates who are contributory to a research project (whether paid, for credit or volunteer) can:

  • List the experience on their resume as a Research Intern or Research Assistant (these are interchangeable)
  • Present their research at university events like DREAMS, at NCUR hosted by the Council on Undergraduate Research, or (with mentor approval) at professional conferences. These can be listed on your resume under a “Presentations” category.
  • Publish their independent research (with mentor support) or be listed as a co-author on a publication if documented contributions were made to the project. These can be listed on your resume under a “Publications” category.

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