Why Get Involved in Undergraduate Research?

Getting involved in an undergraduate research experience means making original contributions to knowledge as an undergraduate student through research, scholarship, or creative activity. You can either work on a faculty member's research project or develop your own independent project with faculty guidance.

Undergraduate research is for everyone - for art, English, and sociology majors, not just science and engineering majors, for freshmen and sophomores as well as juniors and seniors. It can take place almost anywhere at GW - not just in the College of Arts and Sciences but also in the Medical Center, School of Business, Law School, and other schools. It can also take place in local community agencies through the integration of a research project into a service learning experience or internship.

Thousands of undergraduate students nationwide are doing it, enjoying it, and learning from it. At GW, involving undergraduate students in research is part of our strategic plan for improving the quality of undergraduate education.

Not all undergraduate research experiences are equally valuable, of course. Sometimes experiments fail to produce predicted results, or the professor or student has too little time, or it all takes longer than anyone imagined. However, here are some good reasons to think about getting involved in at least one mentored research experience - maybe more - before you graduate:

Grow Academically:

  • Understand your field much better if you understand not just what is known but how it came to be known.
  • Gain in-depth knowledge of the topic you investigate.
  • Be challenged, stretched, made to think in new ways.
  • Take advantage of learning opportunities available at research universities like GW.
  • You may get to present your work at a professional conference or be a co-author on a publication.
  • Feel more a part of the intellectual life of the University.
  • Get to know a professor, and a professor will get to know you.
  • Help your faculty mentor advance knowledge in his or her field.

Grow Professionally:

  • Hone some of the skills employers most want - skills in oral and written communication, teamwork, and problem solving, for example.
  • Clarify your career goals (even if only to decide that research is not for you).
  • Increase your chances of getting into graduate school, medical school, or whatever school if you highlight your research experience when you apply. (In many doctoral programs especially, programs expect applicants to have research experience.)
  • You may increase your chances of winning a fellowship or assistantship to support your graduate education. (Contact us at fellcent@gwu.edu for information about prestigious fellowships such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell, and Fulbright.)
  • Can increase your chances of getting a good job.
  • Contribute to solving some of society's pressing problems.
  • Be part of a national movement to enrich undergraduate education through meaningful involvement in scholarly inquiry.

For many graduates, an undergraduate research experience is remembered as the best part of their academic experience.  An undergraduate research experience is a chance for you to participate in an activity you will recall fondly for years to come!