Student Research

shutterstock photo of 2 lab students

What Is Independent Research?

Independent research is a wonderful opportunity to take an active role in studying what you enjoy! Students participate in a lab, field, or modeling project in which they themselves have a say in the design, implementation, and interpretation of experiments.  

Review the policies and frequently asked questions below. As always, feel free to make an advising appointment to discuss any questions you might have.

How Do I Find A Research Position?

There are hundreds of research labs at U-M. One place to access them is through the Program in Biomedical Sciences website. (This is not a complete list, but should get you started.) Choose areas that sound interesting to you. Try to think broadly when you are looking for labs–don’t just look at the "cool-sounding" areas. If you click on the faculty member’s name you will get a more detailed description of their research and their contact information (email address). You can even go to their lab website for more detail about their research.

Contact faculty by email -- one by one. Make sure your spelling and grammar are correct. Use professional language. Do not call them by their first name, call them “Doctor” or “Professor.” Ask to meet with them (give them a few times that are good times for you to meet). Be clear in your email message what you are looking for –- paid position, volunteer, academic credit -- and when you want to start. Let them know if you are considering an Honors thesis project, if you would like to work there multiple semesters, etc.  

Do not get discouraged by rejections. Many faculty members have limited space and funding in their lab. You may have to contact at least 20 different labs to find the right fit. 

Remember if you wish to receive credit toward your major for research done under the direction of a faculty member in another department or unit of the University, you must obtain approval from a faculty member in your major's department who agrees to serve as co-sponsor before beginning the project.

How Do I Enroll For Credit For A Psychology-Related Project?

Students whose research interests lead them to faculty and projects within Psychology will follow that department's research guidelines and procedures.

How Do I Enroll For Credit For Research On An MCDB-Oriented Project?

Students who are interested in research with faculty in MCDB (or a related department) should register for MCDB 300 or 400 and will follow the guidelines of the Program in Biology's student research program.

What If My Faculty Sponsor Is Not An MCDB Or Psychology Faculty Member?

A student wishing to receive credit toward his or her major for research done under the direction of a faculty member in another department or unit of the University must obtain approval from a faculty member in the Department of Psychology or MCDB, who agrees to serve as co-sponsor before beginning the project. A prospective co-sponsor will verify that the proposed research meets all of the criteria required of research carried out within Psychology or MCDB. The faculty co-sponsor will review the research proposal and decide the appropriateness of the nature of the research. The co-sponsor will also confirm that the project is neuroscience-related to a significant extent and that it will help the student develop independence and is not simply a technical training exercise.