New Allegheny students often ask How do I get started in research? While all Allegheny seniors are required to complete an independent Senior Research Project (i.e., The Senior Comp), students have many opportunities to engage in research projects prior to the senior project. There are two primary ways for students to get involved in research prior to their Senior Comp: during the academic year as part of a 590 course or during the summer.
590: Independent Study course
If you are interested in enrolling in an Independent Study course during the fall or spring semester, the first step is to find out what faculty research interests are from department web pages or to talk to faculty from whom you are taking classes. If you find a faculty member who is willing to mentor you and if your schedule permits, you can sign up for a 590: Independent Study course. The description of the 590: Independent Study, as listed in the College Catalogue is:
An independent study or research experience. The student independently pursues a topic or project of interest with guidance from a faculty member. Students meet one-on-one with the faculty mentor on a regular basis and also complete independent readings, laboratory work, or comparable activities. Credit: One to four semester credit hours. Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.
Each department or program has specific descriptions of their Independent Study course. In some cases, departments only allow upper-class students to enroll in Independent Study, while other departments allow all students to engage in Independent Study.
Along the with Provost’s Office, the Office or URSCA provides Allegheny students with paid opportunities to learn outside the lines by collaborating with a faculty member to conduct research during the summer. After your first year at Allegheny, students can apply to participate in our summer collaborative Student-Faculty Research program.
The first step towards participating in summer research is to identify a faculty member whose research interests you. If you’ve had a professor that taught a class on a topic that you think is interesting, there is a good chance that you have overlapping research interests with that faculty member. Alternatively, or additionally, visit department web pages and search through the faculty and their research interests (many faculty maintain professional websites in addition to the blurbs written about them on departmental webpages) to help find research areas that you find interesting.
The next step is to engage in a conversation with a faculty member to determine whether they are able to mentor any summer research students and to discuss your research interests. Students often worry about having these conversations because they do not yet have a solidified research idea. Don’t let this deter you! You’ll find that faculty are very interested in these types of conversations and simply chatting with faculty about their current, and past, research can help you better identify what your own interests are. You should begin these conversations late in the Fall semester (ideally) or at the beginning of the Spring semester so that you have ample time to complete your proposal for summer research (due during the Spring semester).
Once you identify a faculty willing to supervise your summer research, they will be able to help you with the application process to apply for an award for Provost/URSCA summer research. These awards are funded on a competitive basis and thus having regular conversations with your proposed summer research mentor are important to have. Information about applying for a collaborative Student-Faculty Research award is published on My Allegheny early in the Spring semester and can be found by visiting the Summer Research Program page.