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How to Get Started

Don’t know where to begin your research journey?

This page provides introductory tools and various pathways into research. If you’d like to have more guidance through this process, sign up for an advising appointment for one on one support.

Sign up for advising here!

Introductory Tools

Both of these interactive tools provide a broad overview of how to get involved in research and research skills you can develop. If you prefer learning in-person or through video format, these are great options for you!

Information Sessions

Want to learn about research in an interactive session? Attend an in-person information session or request a recording to learn more about where to get started on your research journey. The session will cover the content on this page in greater detail.

Learn more!

UW Libraries Research Tutorial

Curious about the fundamental skills that every researcher should develop? This online, asynchronous, and self-paced tutorial introduces undergraduate students to research skills, UW Libraries resources and services.

Learn more!

Pathways Into Research

There are a variety of ways students get involved in research. The Office of Undergraduate Research focuses on the two most common pathways: independent outreach and organized programs.

Independent Outreach

Independent outreach is the most common way students get involved in research. This process involves identifying a research mentor whose research aligns with your interests and reaching out to them through email. You can find potential research mentors through the following resources.

Research Opportunities Database

The Office of Undergraduate Research maintains a database of research opportunities located on campus and the surrounding Seattle area that are actively recruiting UW undergraduates. The database is accessible to UW students and staff with a UW NetID. If it is your first time using the database, you will need to create an Expo account using this link. New opportunities are added all year-round. Mentors interested in posting an opportunity to the database can find more information here.

Explore the database

Note: This is not a comprehensive list of all the research opportunities available for UW undergraduates!

  • The database is made up of opportunities submitted to us by research mentors, but not all mentors choose to post their opportunities. Some research mentors prefer that undergraduates meet with them to explore potential research topics together. Additionally, some departments may have lists of opportunities that are not posted on this database.

How to use the database:

  • Browse the database to learn what types of research are currently happening. You can use the filter tool to search for certain research areas or type in key words to narrow down your search. Make sure to closely read the description, skills, and minimum requirements as they are distinct for each research project.
  • When you identify a project that interests you, look up the faculty/graduate student’s profile on their department website. Go through the process of learning as much as you can about them to get a sense of whether the mentor would be a great fit for you. This process would be similar to if you had found the mentor on a department website.
  • When you feel prepared to draft an email, refer to the Guide on Reaching out to a Mentor and/or sign up for an advising appointment for further support.

View guide on how to reach out to a mentor.

Department Websites

There are a variety of academic departments at the University of Washington with incredible faculty and graduate students conducting research! You can learn about different departments, the research faculty/graduate students are conducting, and reach out to them to express interest in working with them. Follow the steps below for more guidance.

View list of UW academic departments

  1. Identify academic departments that interest you. You can conduct research in any discipline (even outside of your major) so don’t limit yourself!
  2. Each department website will either have a “People” or “Faculty” tab. Click on the tab to find a list of faculty in the department.
  3. Most faculty pages will include a faculty profile, along with their areas of expertise. Click on each profile that interests you, and start learning as much as you can about them and their research. You can skim their research publications through Google Scholar, learn about the courses they teach, and read news articles they are featured in, etc.
    Quick Tip: Some faculty even have their own personal website where they include profiles of their research team. This is a great way to learn who you could potentially work with and whether other undergraduate students are on their team.
    Use this spreadsheet to keep track of mentor information and emails!
  4. After getting a sense of the potential research mentor and their area of research, take some time to reflect.
    Why are you interested in their research?
    What specific projects of theirs interest you?
    How does their research connect to your own goals and passions?
  5. Now that you have an understanding of your potential mentor’s research and how it connects with your own interests, you can start drafting an email to reach out to them.
    View guide on how to reach out to a mentor.

Past Symposia

The Office of Undergraduate Research hosts the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium where students have the opportunity to share their research with the general public. We keep track of annual student projects, including the project abstract and mentor/student’s name and department.

Past symposia proceedings

Explore past year’s symposia proceedings to learn about the various projects undergraduates are involved in. If a certain project interests you, you can see the mentor associated, find their department profile, and begin learning as much as you can about them before you reach out to express interest.

  • The department faculty pages can be a bit overwhelming with the amount of faculty listed, so this option is a great way to narrow down the faculty list. Plus, you already know that all of the mentors in the past symposia proceedings worked with undergraduates and supported them in presenting their work at the Undergraduate Research Symposium. These are all signs of a great mentor!

Organized Programs

Students can also apply to an organized program to get involved in research. This differs from independent outreach, such that there are specific application processes, deadlines, and expectations for each program.

Academic Year Programs

While most structured research programs take place over the summer, there are a few opportunities available for students to take advantage of throughout the academic year. 

Academic Year Programs

  • These programs are designed to support students while they balance their regular course schedule and may provide tuition assistance, funding for research supplies, and/or other materials students may require.
  • Many of these programs will ask for a letter of recommendation from a faculty member who knows you well. Make sure to start making those connections ahead of time, so that when you decide to apply for a program, you will have a strong letter of recommendation.
  • If you have any questions about your eligibility, requirements, application materials, etc., don’t hesitate to send an email or sign up for an advising appointment for support.

Summer Programs

Summer research programs provide opportunities for students to engage in immersive research experiences, to try something new or to take their experience to the next level. 

Summer Programs

  • Summer programs often involve specific time commitments (e.g. 40 hours/week for 8 weeks) and may also require the program to be your sole full time commitment for the summer. Make sure to apply to programs that make sense for you and your summer plans.
  • Most summer program deadlines are in the winter, so plan ahead for which programs interest you so you can be better prepared for your application.
  • Our office helps students plan for summer research, find programs, and apply to programs at UW and beyond. Browse our list of summer research programs to learn more about how to get involved.

You are not alone in your journey to find a research opportunity!


It can take multiple emails and meetings with potential mentors before finding a research opportunity that is the best fit for you. Feeling frustrated? Come in for advising to talk through some strategies on how you can keep moving forward!

Learn more!

How to Reach Out to a Mentor Guide

Check out the How to Reach Out to a Mentor Guide to learn tips & tricks when sending an email to a mentor.

Learn more!