Frequently Asked Questions

Undergraduate research at PennWest California

1. Do you have to be in the PennWest California Honors Program to do research?

Honors status is not a requirement for research involvement or funding, except when relating to scholarships offered explicitly through the honors program. We encourage all students, honors or non-honors, to get involved in research as an undergraduate.

2. Is research only in a lab?

Research can take place in a variety of physical settings, such as in laboratories, libraries, on the computer, in the "field", in a studio or theatre, etc.  Where research occurs depends on the discipline, the research question and the methodology being used. This is why we prefer the phrase "research, scholarship, and creative activity."

3. What is the time commitment?

The amount of time committed to undergraduate research varies by discipline, by faculty advisor, by project, and can even vary over the course of a single project.  Students devote as little as 5 hours to as much as 30 hours per week.  Be sure to discuss time expectations with your potential research mentor.

4. When should I start research?

There is no right time to start research, though the majority of students start in their sophomore or junior year. We encourage students to start as early as possible because the longer you wait, the more you will limit the scope of your research. The earlier you start research, the more opportunities you may have to present, publish or compete for funding. It is important that you plan carefully and contact a potential research mentor as soon as possible.

5. Are there prerequisites to doing research?

This depends on the adviser and/or the field of study. Sometimes you need relevant experience or course work. In many cases, you will develop skills as you get involved in the research. Some majors offer specific courses designed to introduce the student to research and are helpful to beginning undergraduate research.

6. Can I get credit for doing research?

Some departments do offer credit for conducting research. Contact your faculty adviser or department chair to see if this is an option for you.

7. Can I do research outside of my major?

Yes. While most students choose to do research in their major, some students choose to do research in the area of their minor, or a subject in which they are passionately interested. It is important to discuss your choice of doing research outside of your major with an advisor to determine whether there are any academic impacts from this decision.

8. What's the best way to contact a potential faculty mentor?

If possible, a student should try and talk directly with a faculty member with whom she/he is interested in working. Check out office hours whenever possible. Students should prepare for the meeting by familiarizing themselves with the faculty member's work and considering how the student's background, experience and/or interests match.

In some cases, emails are the best form of communication with a faculty member. When emailing a professor, be very specific in the subject line (just think of how many emails you receive and how you screen through them). Again, show your familiarity with the professor's work and exactly why you are contacting him or her. You might need to follow up with a second email. And, remember be as concise as possible. 

9. Are there any special requirements if I am involving human or animal subjects?

Yes, there are federal regulations governing the use of human and animal subjects in research. 


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